It’s just plain wrong to call Edinburgh city centre residents ‘Nimbys’ – Joanna Mowat

It’s not Nimbyism to want to maintain a living city centre with permanent residents, writes Joanna Mowat

Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 6:00 am
Joanna Mowat is a Conservative councillor for the City Centre ward
Joanna Mowat is a Conservative councillor for the City Centre ward

What do we want? Better management of the city centre. When do we want it? Now!

As rallying cries go I admit it is a poor effort – but then I’ve spent most of my life avoiding marches and protest songs so don’t have a lot of practice at this. It is, however, a heartfelt cry and one I’ve made consistently during my time as a councillor.

Why is it needed and why do I call for it? Is it because I am the enemy of fun and represent a load of Nimbys or is this because complex areas full of people become chaos if they aren’t managed? I would argue the latter and fiercely defend residents from accusations of Nimbyism.

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Festival-goers pack the High Street. Picture: PA

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The trouble is when you come to Edinburgh (and very welcome you are too) you are visiting someone’s home. Having seen 12 summers as a councillor I can tell you that the tolerance of jollity amongst those who live in the very centre of the city is much higher than those who live in other parts of Edinburgh but they didn’t move in expecting to live in an events space.

I firmly believe that we should start from the principle that Edinburgh is a home – the city centre is still, just, a living city centre with permanent residents, the city is seen as home to those who went away many years ago and come back for a visit or a more permanent stay and of course it is home to the world’s greatest festival.

All these homes have a claim on the city but we will lose part of what makes us Edinburgh if any of them are squeezed out.

The world is here and that presents a challenge. For too long (12 summers at least) the council has dealt with parts of the problem but not in a holistic way.

It is disingenuous to trumpet our living city centre and not to recognise that Edinburgh’s ability to resolutely refuse to follow fashion and go her own way has given us a unique set of challenges.

For example this weekend saw the introduction of Summertime Streets – a series of partial street closures and restrictions to make the city more welcoming and provide a more “relaxed environment” but it involves some hideously ugly barriers which are unwelcoming and removes a bus used to get up a and down pretty steep hill.

Whilst this may end Edinburgh Executive Director of Place Paul Lawrence’s nightmares it doesn’t respect the built heritage (the number one attraction in Edinburgh) and excludes residents from their city and services.

Add in frustrations about why local businesses can no longer advertise with A-Boards but advertising sites made of heras fencing are allowed to be placed on pavements crowded with visitors and it all looks poorly managed.

There are a lot of reasons and arcane pieces of legislation which mean it is difficult to put in a management plan for the city centre but just because something is hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and put one together.

If we are to get this right then all parts of the council and her partners have to work together to put in place a plan that respects all those who call Edinburgh home; or those who fear that the city centre will join countless other cities across the world with no residents at their heart will be proved right.

Joanna Mowat is a Conservative councillor for the City Centre ward