What Edinburgh needs is more workshops on consultations – Kevin Buckle

I was disappointed to be accused on social media of being too cynical about the City Centre Transformation Plan consultation after last week’s column.

Saturday, 25th May 2019, 6:00 am
There is little detail on help for the high street in the City Centre Transformation Plan. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Consultations are of course the way developers tell people what they will be doing and nobody really thinks the developers have the slightest thought of actually paying any attention to the public’s views.

At best the developer will take notice of the council if any permissions are still needed but the way the development at the top of King’s Stables Road deteriorated into all the council had said they didn’t want shows the power lies with the developers.

A consultation in which a developer suggests two different types of buildings and offer the public a choice will never happen.

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Council consultations are much the same, though they are often put forward as reacting to the opinion of the public and “stakeholders” – a word most people never use.

These opinions are usually acquired through workshops but again this process can be massively flawed, with organisations whose meetings are often attended by a handful of people purporting to represent large numbers and the public generally remaining uninvolved.

None of this means that what then becomes proposed doesn’t have worth, it just hasn’t been reached in the best possible way. There is no doubt the cycling lobby has had too much influence on the CCT plan – they crowed about it on social media after the announcement – but for all that as I said last week there is much to recommend and if anything its biggest flaw is that the costs are not yet known, something that should be remedied in September.

I was actually in the Grassmarket last Saturday and as luck would have it it started raining, much to the amusement of a couple of businesses who had already seen my column and mention of a retractable roof for the Grassmarket.

Given the poor treatment the Grassmarket businesses have received they have every right to be cynical about big plans for the city centre and yet generally there was hope that finally some good may come from all the disruption many suffered during the pedestrianisation ten years ago.

Sadly, though, there has been little detail on how the CCT Plan will help the high street beyond clinging to the idea that improving the public realm, another word folk don’t normally use, will miraculously get people to put down their phones, stop ordering online and walk into shops instead. Something any retailer knows to be nonsense.

Such has been the hype about how “transformational” the plans are I don’t think it is unfair to say that it would take a brave person to oppose them, while it can be guaranteed that the active travel lobby will be out in force supporting the plan. Such is the way of all consultations – they simply are no real measure of opinion and to say so is not to be cynical but realistic.

With regards to workshops there was one last twist and that came from my second piece about the announcement of the launching of Original Edinburgh, the rebranded Old Town BID.

I was surprised that the relaunch happened without businesses even being aware. You really need to go around and speak to businesses to get a feel for what they are thinking. Inviting them to an event to get their views isn’t really the way to go.

Starting at 7.30am so businesses can come along before work is inadvisable to put it politely yet that is the plan for the first Original Edinburgh event with three drop-in events organised before and after work.

However, given all I’ve just said Original Edinburgh have then managed to outdo the daftness of such an early start by holding two workshops. None of those boring how do we save the high street workshops for them though. Instead we have “Original Edinburgh, in partnership with Keep Scotland Beautiful, aims to engage with businesses in the local area to better understand the challenges and opportunities our public realm faces today”. They will then “create a report celebrating local strengths, and outlining how, collaboratively, we can work towards improving place”.

Good luck with that! “Blessed are the placemakers” – something you will never hear from local businesses.

Why can’t all bands be a bit more like Pablo?

One of my favourite pop singles in recent times by a Scottish band is There She Is by Be Like Pablo, who hail from the Moray Coast. Not only is it a great song but it has an equally good video.

Weezer are often mentioned but their new single released yesterday has a lead female vocal. Another slice of classic pop, they even manage to come up with another good video which unlike so many these days is in keeping with the lyrics.

The new single Call You Back charts a fading relationship via a series of telephone calls and the video is inspired by science fiction B-movies in the style of an 80s Spielberg blockbuster.

Released at the end of last month was the new album from PAWS. Your Church On My Bonfire comes on limited edition clear vinyl with a pink splatter.

Documenting the last three years of songwriter Phillip Taylor’s life the lyrics are again very personal and always worth a listen

Back to yesterday’s releases and The Waterboys’ new album Where The Action Is just reinforces that Mike Scott doesn’t know how to release a bad album and reassuringly for some this comes on CD, deluxe CD and vinyl – a selection of formats that not too long ago was considered the norm.

Finally, for those who missed out the first time the 2009 Camera Obscura album My Maudlin Career was rereleased on vinyl this week.

I still live in hope that one day Be Like Pablo will release a seven-inch picture disc!

A sticky moment for T-shirts

Good to see Panini Cheapskates in the paper this week for their “badly drawn” pics of Hearts players. I’ve followed them for some time on Twitter and asked if we could use some of their images for T-shirts when we opened at Waverley Mall.

However, while virtually all the football clubs and players saw the funny side, Manchester United didn’t and were threatening legal action so I agreed to wait awhile.

I’m hoping things have now calmed down and soon we will have a Pat Nevin T-shirt.