Edinburgh is well known as being a fantastic place to live, work and to visit, which is why, in 2016, we are one of the UK’s most vibrant and fastest-growing cities.
However, we are also a city that is facing many challenges. There are pockets of severe deprivation and inequality and as the population increases, so does the pressure on infrastructure, health and housing services, the environment and resources. In order to ensure we are able to best tackle these issues now and in the future, it is essential that we have a set of core principles, beliefs and values that we can all agree on to make our city even better.
In September this year, the council launched a conversation with residents and businesses of Edinburgh, along with those who visit, on the type of city they want Edinburgh to be by 2050. We have been very clear that this is a vision for the city, not a council vision. This needs to be something that everyone can buy into and own and I wanted to share some of the feedback and key themes that are starting to emerge as part of this conversation.
The preservation and enhancement of Edinburgh’s green spaces has come across very strongly. While the feeling is that our parks are an important part of the city’s identity, there is a sense that they are being under-used, under-maintained and isolated. The Edinburgh of 2050 was imagined as a place with parks well used for physical activity and recreation and also a thriving space for plants and trees.
Edinburgh is well known for its distinctive built environment, particularly in the city centre, and the view is that city planners, businesses and developers need to contribute positively to the architecture of the city. Blending new designs with our existing architecture is seen as crucial. People are also keen to see less street clutter.
Unsurprisingly, infrastructure is a hot topic of debate. The frequency of our roads being dug up for services and emergencies followed by poor reinstatement is a concern and, with the majority of our utilities being housed underground, what will happen when the next generation of cables and pipes needs replacing? An Edinburgh where its infrastructure is future-proofed is an ask of many people.
We know that the shortfall of housing in the city is an issue and while the council is leading the way in tackling this by announcing 8,000 affordable homes over the next decade, that has been matched by local registered social landlords, there is still much to be done. Suitable, good quality affordable housing in Edinburgh is a key theme that is emerging. Increasingly, high rise buildings are being seen worldwide as a solution to affordable housing and what opportunities exist for this in Edinburgh? And affordable housing isn’t just about buying. Increasingly people are renting and better rights and longer term stability is the vision for many for Edinburgh in 2050.
A city of equality, opportunity and respect is also an aspiration of many of the people who have contacted us. Life-long learning should be valued and encouraged and the importance of skills development acknowledged whether it happens in the classroom, in the workplace, or in the community. Everyone should be able to reach their full potential through a good job and should understand that their job makes a positive contribution to their community.
Encouraging more people to participate in active travel through the design layout of our city that improves health and well-being is another aspiration for 2050 as is a public transport system that meets our needs for the future. How might self-driving car and city car clubs integrate with our public transport in an age where most work will take place away from offices or the city centre?
Edinburgh is renowned for its cultural offering and the desire for the city to produce world class cultural experiences and products while making cultural participation part of every resident’s life comes through strongly in our conversations with residents.
The themes emerging are certainly ones that resonate with me and I would welcome for our city in the future. The response to this conversation to date has been fantastic and I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to engage. But this conversation goes on – we want to hear from more people. Let us know what you think at edinburgh.org/2050-edinburgh-city-vision. Andrew Kerr, City of Edinburgh Council Chief Executive