Letter from The Quaich Project, to Old Town Community Council (OTCC), 24th October 2019.

We have a number of concerns about West Princes Street Gardens. These were summarised in our letter to The Quaich Project on 15th October. Here is their response.

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Thank you for your letter of 15th October. We have picked out the key points from your letter and responded below. If you feel we have missed something or not responded to something clearly, please let us know and we can provide more detail. We have added some general comments to finish.

 

1. Concern regarding lack of business case.

This is an action point for The City of Edinburgh Council. RDT put together a full business case in January 2018 which went into significant detail regarding the future operation of WPSG. Event numbers and income statistics were provided, and we were happy for this to be used as a ‘starter for 10’ to aid the discussion. This was to help support the proposal of the ALEO that was ultimately not taken forward due to the result of a public consultation in 2018. Based on that consultation result the council informed us that they would provide the Business Case not RDT. This has not been completed to date, but I am assured it is being worked on. We are fully aware that the business case not being complete or publicly available is a concern for many groups, and RDT has urged CEC to accelerate this work and make it public. The business case is predicated on a programme of regular free/inexpensive community performances and activities, without an increase in the current programme of major events.

“…this has not been completed to date, but I am assured it is being worked on.”

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2. OTCC not consulted about availability for stakeholder meetings

The stakeholder meetings currently include attendees from several organisations

  • RDT
  • CEC officers/members
  • Ironside Farrar
  • Thomson Gray
  • Gras
  • wHY
  • OTCC
  • NTBCC
  • Ramsay Garden Association
  • Cockburn Association
  • Edinburgh World Heritage
  • Historic Environment Scotland
  • Edinburgh Access Panel

Most organisations will send more than one representative and contacting each representative individually to ask for dates would become a hugely time-consuming exercise that would most likely not be very productive. We try to give as much notice as possible to make sure diaries can accommodate the meeting. For next year we will try to get all the meetings in the diary in January. I have also mentioned several times that if an organisation is unable to attend that I can meet with them separately so they remain informed and updated.

“… contacting each representative individually … would become a hugely time-consuming exercise that would most likely not be very productive.”

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3. Comment regarding inactivity from the Quaich Project on providing business case after many requests from OTCC to see it

Please refer to point 1. This has been mentioned at every stakeholder meeting and CEC have made it clear that this is their responsibility and that they are working on it. We are equally keen for this to be published; however, you are directing your concern to the wrong organisation.

“… this has been mentioned at every stakeholder meeting …”

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4. Complaint regarding time taken for OTCC to be updated having missed the recent stakeholder meeting on 17th September – date update was received was 23rd September

The Stakeholder meeting took place on the afternoon of 17th September, which was a Wednesday. It took us a couple of days to collate notes from the team, for them to be written up and then checked. You received an update on the 23rd which was the Monday. I do not feel that three working days to collate notes is unreasonable.

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5. It is not clear why TQP has put a price tag of £25m on the project when Saughton Park project cost so much less.

The project budget has been determined from discussions with CEC and stakeholders and is based on the proposed design from the design competition. As with any project, it must be costed based on all of the specific factors associated with the design and therefore is not comparable to another city park project.

“… not comparable to another city park project.”

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6. Your Stakeholder Forum is not truly representative. Of the 22 attendees, 18 have commercial, political, legal interests. Forum needs downsized and much more representation from the ‘users’ interested in the future of WPSG.

I have listed the invited attendees above so won’t again but ultimately there are seven groups invited to the forum at present outside of the project team. I am slightly frustrated at this response for several reasons. We are bringing representatives from our team to the forum to show we value your attendances and want to provide a place where your concerns and questions can be answered by the correct people. It would be far easier (not to mention cheaper) for us not to invite our wider team, but we had felt that didn’t show a great commitment to the forum. This was set up to benefit all involved and having the team in the room with you to pick up concerns and discuss them with you directly I felt was useful.  Other members of the stakeholder group have provided very positive feedback that they welcome engagement from the team, therefore I’m sorry to hear you don’t feel this way.

“I am slightly frustrated at this response …”

The second reason why this comment frustrates us is that we have at multiple stakeholder meetings asked the group if they are happy with the groups attending and whether they would like others to be invited. On each occasion this has been raised OTCC said nothing. Now 6 months later you are being very critical of the forum. This criticism seems to be quite recent and as soon as I was aware you were unhappy with the make up of the forum I asked you to let me know how you would change it and who else you would like invited. I have still received no response to this request. Following receipt of your letter on the 15th of October, again highlighting this issue, I immediately responded by email asking for your recommendations of who we could invite to the forum, to which I have again heard nothing. To stress again, we can invite others to participate in this group, however we need your feedback on specifically who you would like us to invite. 

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7. TQP putting OTCC in an increasingly compromised position by not sharing the needs of the project.

Not 100% clear what this is referencing to but assume it is based on the business case and future use. I feel our response to this has been covered already. This is CEC providing this information and we are pushing for it to be completed ASAP.

“CEC [is] providing this information and we are pushing for it to be completed ASAP.”

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8. OTCC wants clear understanding of what RDT is responsible for and what CEC is responsible for. Where is this information available for public to read?

RDT are responsible for finalising the plans for the reimagination of the gardens as well as fundraising to achieve this.

CEC are responsible for the management and maintenance of the gardens, including operations and events.

This information is available on the FAQs section of our website. If you don’t feel it is clear, we can amend or update the website to improve it.

“CEC are responsible for the management and maintenance of the gardens, including operations and events.”

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9. Will the Nov 19 consultation be limited to the 2018 marketing images

No – we have received significant response on the design since 2018 and the design continues to be changed to reflect these comments. There will be new renders provided which take cognisance of this feedback as well as images from our updated 3D model which shows the changes over the past 12 months.

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10. Does the project intend to use a third party to run the consultation and ensure objectivity?

RDT have been using Ironside Farrar as our planning consultants who have advised us on requirements for running the consultation. RDT have provided the content and have taken advise from Ironside Farrar on how to ask the questions. We are also consulting with The Consultation Institute, to review the presentation of the content and to help write our questions. We are also running an extra stakeholder forum on the 30th of October to review the content and questions ahead of the consultation going live on the 4th of November. The consultation will be run through the Quaich Project website as well as a series of events at city locations. We are seeking to engage with as wide an audience as possible to receive feedback to inform the design.

“… using Ironside Farrar … and consulting with The Consultation Institute …”

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11. How many days will KSR and other gates be shut to the public for set-up, performance and dismantling of paid for events in gardens – where is this information available to read

This is a question on operations and an exact answer cannot be given at this time as the business case has not been finalised. We can however say that given there will not be an increase in major events and with the drastic infrastructure improvements we are looking to make within the gardens, the disruption caused by the current programme of large events should be reduced. Initially discussions with event organisers have predicted between a reduction in set-up and take down time by up to 50%.

“…. an exact answer cannot be given at this time as the business case has not been finalised.”

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12. Comment regarding Cllr Wilson ignoring public consultation result.

Cllr Wilson was referring to not restricting the number of community led activities within the gardens. The number of major events will remain the same as is currently which reflects the result of the public consultation last year. There is currently no restriction of the number of activities that can take place within the confines of the Ross Bandstand and amphitheatre. We appreciate that there is a lack of clarity around the definition of a major event, this is something we are pushing CEC to clarify as it causes a lot of confusion. Councillor Wilson clarified what he said in today’s (24th Oct) full council meeting.

“The number of major events will remain the same as is currently which reflects the result of the public consultation last year.”

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13. Comment about distrust with CEC due to events within City Centre of past few years.

I can fully understand your frustration and that your intention is for the best for the city centre and Edinburgh. This is ultimately an intention we share. However, directing negativity at us over issues that ultimately are not our responsibility or that we have nothing to do with I think is unfair. We want you to play a key role in this project and we have been trying to work with you for that to be the case. Our intention has always been to provide an excellent green space for the people of Edinburgh to enjoy.

“I can fully understand your frustration …”

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14. OTCC strives for excellent working relationships and in return we ask you and your colleagues to work more constructively with us.

We also strive for excellent working relationships and feel for the most part we achieve this. Speaking honestly, I feel we are trying to work with you in a constructive and positive manner. You have made comments that we could be doing things better, but you haven’t told us how we can be doing this, even after being asked several times. The easiest way to improve the relationship would in my opinion be to sit down and discuss face to face. I have requested the chance to meet face to face on three separate occasions over the last month, without my request even being acknowledged.

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Ultimately, I feel we are closer to wanting the same outcome than you may think. We are absolutely committed to working with you and we have only ever been and will continue to be fully honest with you. However, our hands are tied with regards to what we feel are your main concerns; events and usage. We are pushing the CEC hard to make as much information on this available as soon as possible. We can’t comment on other decisions made in the City that you are unhappy with but I’m asking you not to allow that to cloud your opinion of what we are trying to achieve in WPSG, which is ultimately a fantastic public green space for the residents of Edinburgh to enjoy.

“… our hands are tied with regards to what we feel are your main concerns : events and usage.”

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The 2 main points I would like a response to from the OTCC are;

  • How can we improve the stakeholder forum – who else should be attending?
  • When can RDT meet with OTCC to discuss items address in this letter more closely? Can RDT answer questions at the next OTCC meeting in November?

Yours Sincerely,

David Ellis

Managing Director

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