Yesterday the City of Edinburgh Council Finance and Resources Committee decided to withdrawn from the sale of the Westbank Street site to the preferred bidder:
1.1.3 Agrees to withdraw the proposed sale of the Westbank site from the open market and request the Executive Director of Place to work with the local community to establish a master plan that seeks to deliver a balance between financial return and local community place-making aspirations;
1.1.4 Instructs officers to engage with joint owners of the site, Powerleague, to achieve the outcome in paragraph 1.1.3;
This follows from on from much hard work from the Action Westbank sub-group of Action Porty, itself following on from consultation by the community council, the first use of a Participation Request in Edinburgh, and a public meeting.
The local community will be central to the drafting of a master plan, which will then go on to form the planning brief before the re-advertising of the site for sale. Ultimately the final proposals will be subject to planning permission, including the specific site constraints (e.g. protection of pitches).
Statement from Action Westbank:
Action Westbank is delighted that the future of the Pitz/Tumbles site is no longer to be determined by private developers. Instead, Portobello community’s needs and wishes will inform how the site will be redeveloped.
Action Westbank welcomes today’s decision of Edinburgh Council’s Finance and Resources Committee, which:
(1) stops the proposed immediate sale of the Westbank site to a private developer and
(2) commits the Council to work with the community to establish a masterplan for the site
So what is in it for the community?
We now have a unique opportunity to input into the process of redeveloping the site, including retaining and/or improving popular leisure facilities, making improvements to the Prom and ensuring that business on the High Street is supported and sustained.
Prior to the November 2017 Town Hall meeting called by the Community Council, the Westbank site was going to be sold off for private residential development and/or for commercial use, with Tumbles retained (but likely demolished and relocated on the site). It was argued that in the economic context there was nothing we could do about it. Community engagement would be restricted to what influence could be brought to bear after a developer was appointed to be the ‘preferred bidder’ in a reactive process that can prove divisive and ineffectual. This meant the end of 5-a-side, and the profits going to the council and Powerleague. The efforts of Save the Porty 5s had gathered some support, but with the status quo unable to deliver any capital receipt and Powerleague keen to vacate the site, this approach was perhaps unlikely to succeed.
In this context Action Westbank was formed to try and deliver an outcome which, accepting change through development of the site, would deliver for both the community and the council: a solid enough (although reduced) receipt for the council, and enhanced community leisure use that as well as Tumbles, will include (probably reduced) 5-a-side but also other community leisure and open space provisions too. The March 2018 weekend community design event led to the creation of three ‘mixed use’ scenarios that showed such an outcome could be delivered (albeit one of the scenarios was ultimately seen as too housing heavy). Action Westbank and local councillors then used the scenarios created by the community-led design process to show council officers and other elected members that seeking to ignore community concerns in advance of the sale of the site was not the best way forward.
Cooperation and negotiation require give and take, but we are hopeful that – if we can work hard and pull together – we can end up with a secure receipt for the council to use for us all as Edinburgh citizens, and also for all of us as community members of Portobello to end up with enhanced provision of local facilities and properly designed public spaces.
Many thanks to all those community members who have given their time to this process, including those on the Community Council and those who worked with the community to create the three scenarios from the March consultations. Thanks also to our local councillors who have worked tirelessly for this outcome, to key council officers who have taken the community seriously, and to the Scottish Government whose ‘Making Places’ grant helped us deliver our community engagement event.
We look forward to the next steps, working with the Council and the community to deliver a place to be proud of for all.
Today’s decision means that the decision making process determining the type of place Westbank will become has been wrested from the hands of private developers and placed in the hands of the community in dialogue with the council. People and place, over profit.