Summertime Streets : this is what one Old Town resident wrote the City of Edinburgh Council

We reported previously that the City of Edinburgh Council invited the views of residents with respect to Summertime Streets. The Council’s invitation closes on Friday 8th November. This is the response of one resident to the City Council.

 

“The Old Town Community Council has suggested that those impacted by Summertime Streets email with feedback ahead of the review and report to TEC in December.

I fully support the publicised aims of this: safer, more relaxed and more accessible streets.  I have been disappointed that there seemed to be no willingness to engage with the problems during August.

I had previously raised issues about safety, in 2018, and I am pleased to say, at least in my view, the junction of South Bridge and the High Street looked far better managed this year.

Yet, since these measures started, has Cockburn Street and the area on the High St next to Hunter Sq been more accessible and relaxed?  Certainly not, the unmanaged space was occupied by various amplified performers throughout August with very large crowds (corresponding to excessive volumes).  The consequence of this was that these areas would have been more accessible and relaxed had the streets remained open to traffic to displace the busking activity.  Unfortunately, it seems that the Fringe Society supported these buskers, giving some sort of pseudo-authority, which makes their management by the police additionally difficult.  Frankly, pedestrians cannot go anywhere near these streets without being assaulted by noise pollution, jostled by distracted crowds and, in the worst instances, harassed by performers that feel other users of the street should not be disturbing their performances, even when they obstruct the whole street.

“Summertime Streets appears to have been some sort of secret experiment about street closures …”

It is also important to stress that I don’t believe policy about street management should focus solely on pedestrians and vehicles, while completely ignoring the residents and businesses with properties adjacent to these streets.  The noise from buskers occupying the traffic-vacated space outside of our property made it almost unusable in August 2018 and again in August 2019. The pretence that residents constantly calling the police is a solution to this situation is not helpful. It is actually just a lot of additional stress and inconvenience with very little impact on the offending activity.  I am writing in detail to the council about this in due course, as officials did not provide me a substantive response to any of the issues I raised in August.

I’m not sure any if this should have been a surprise.  Exactly these problems were identified with the daytime closure of High St/Cockburn St during August last year.  Then, the unintended consequences were not anticipated and so no management arrangements were in place, says the council report. Yet, the problem was worse this year and still no sign of a management strategy.

I would also comment that the management of the Old Town during August which means residents in EH1 cannot get supermarket deliveries is also going unaddressed.  All the major supermarkets now blacklist the area. I made a freedom of information request about this and, again, it is disappointing that the council have made no attempt to address this by corresponding with supermarkets – who apparently can read about the restrictions put in place, in the press, like everyone else.  They can and this results in them blacklisting. What is needed is a two-way dialogue. Provisions put in place for commercial deliveries are irrelevant to this issue. 

Finally, I would like to point out that many Old Town residents are not engaged with the council.  The reason for this is they feel completely sidelined and despite being very tolerant, feel they have not been listened to by the council for many years.  Complaining or reporting problems is a frustrating waste of time, which, even when acknowledged, results in no action. For example, nothing had been learnt about amplified busking and residents have been complaining about this for over a decade, as the problem has become worse.  Almost every UNESCO heritage city in Europe addressed this issue many years ago, so I do not accept excuses defending the status quo or the arguments that this isn’t connected to street closures as having any validity. If Edinburgh chooses to promote tourism to the levels it has and it chooses to close streets to make public spaces that performers may occupy, then it must manage these spaces so that residents, businesses and other visitors are protected from potential antisociaal activity.

Summertime Streets appears to have been some sort of secret experiment about street closures and I am concerned that any conclusions are drawn about how satisfied Old Town residents are based on their disengagement.  CEC needs to bear in mind the context within which this engagement is expected.”

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