Sir Terry Farrell in bold vision for Edinburgh's future

WHEN design guru Sir Terry Farrell dreams of his ideal Edinburgh, it is a vision of a city that is thriving because it has embraced its future.

A veteran of some of the world's most impressive design projects, it was a major coup when Sir Terry agreed to become the city's design champion four years ago.

But while his theories of how to create a modern, flourishing city have been visionary, progress has been slow and frustrating as far as the straight-talking 69-year-old is concerned.

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"I would say progress was almost non-existent and I do feel some of the criticism of the slowness of the pace has been entirely attributed to the previous Labour administration at the city council," he says.

However, despite this disappointment, as he looks to the future – Sir Terry (pictured above) has just accepted a two-year extension of his unpaid design champion role – he is upbeat.

Indeed, to show how much he expects Edinburgh to succeed, he has outlined his vision in a report which maps out the challenges the city must embrace.

It is a detailed document that, in Sir Terry's unmistakable style, does not mince words but is ultimately positive in its outlook.

One of the things he is most buoyed about is the change in attitude of decision makers, largely due to the changing face of the recently-elected council administration that is headed by Lib Dem Jenny Dawe.

He hopes this will result in a determined break from the past. For decades, he says, city planners have seen their role almost entirely as preserving the city's historic landscape.

"My impression is the new leader Jenny Dawe and her colleagues all look to me like they are, as they say, 'up for it'," says Sir Terry, speaking from China where he is working to get Asia's largest railway station in Beijing up and running in time for this summer's Olympic Games.

"They are seizing the moment. They are looking at the city of Edinburgh with new eyes and it's all looking rather hopeful at the moment."

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Sir Terry is reluctant to be drawn into the controversies surrounding individual issues, such as the Caltongate development – beyond insisting they must be seen within the context of the city as a whole. His eyes are firmly on the bigger picture. With Edinburgh's growing population, he also highlights the need to make more of underdeveloped areas in the city centre and the waterfront.

He describes Edinburgh as a "truly extraordinary place" but adds that the Capital suffers from an "albatross of excellence" and has some of "the worst problems of the modern age".

Sir Terry says: "Traffic congestion in the city centre, the destruction of pedestrian routes and blighted suburban council estates all sit uneasily alongside a defensive sense of self-satisfaction.

"True, Edinburgh regularly wins plaudits for being the best and most liveable city in the UK or Europe, but over the past four years this complacent view has drastically changed.

"During my term there have been a number of new developments such as at the airport, the Gyle and the ports, that dwarf the New Town in terms of scale.

"Add to this major infrastructure, enterprises such as the trams, and you get the sense that new forces are now shaping Edinburgh, bringing home the reality that its population growth and capital city status will have to be addressed by a new era of city making."

The renowned architect is a strong advocate of working more closely with Glasgow in order to be able to compete better on the global stage.

Harnessing the power of the business community is also something that Sir Terry believes is necessary when council leaders are looking for funding for building projects.

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He points to Seattle, where commercial giants such as Boeing and Microsoft, which have headquarters in the American city, invest heavily in public schemes.

While he knows some of his ideas are controversial and will be hotly debated, Sir Terry has the confidence of a man convinced he knows what he is talking about.

"I know that Edinburgh is a city which is kind of a bit of a hypersensitive place, but you have to put that to one side," he says with a chuckle.

"I look at Edinburgh and I just know what has to be done."


CENTRAL to Sir Terry's vision for Edinburgh's future is the tram line between Newhaven and Edinburgh Airport.

But he says for the city to be truly improved by the trams, more consideration will need to be given to the public areas around the line. "I think the tram could do a lot for Edinburgh but it's still being thought of as just a transport project and not enough thought's gone into the urban design aspect – the streets, the paving, the adjacent buildings," says Sir Terry.

The trams, he says, will also help to make it feel as though Leith and Haymarket – areas of immense regeneration – are much closer to the city centre.

"Most of the people in Edinburgh think of Leith as very far away when in fact it's a very short distance indeed," says Sir Terry. "The tram will make that distance shrink."

He believes the train station at Haymarket is also likely to increase in popularity – and ease pressure on Waverley – as business commuters favour alighting there and taking advantage of tram service.


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SIR TERRY is unreserved in his criticism of Princes Street and believes there is a need for drastic changes.

He describes the street as a "failure" and points out that many of the upper floors are being used for storage. But while the views offered by these properties could be enjoyed if they were turned into flats, bars or restaurants, he says this type of development has been opposed by planners and retailers.

The main problem, he says, has been a mistaken drive to see Princes Street compete with out-of-town shopping complexes.

"Princes Street will never equal the out-of-town centres on their terms but it can become a great high street promenade," he says.


WITH the right planning, the 11km stretch of coastline that Sir Terry calls Waterfront City will be as radical in its evolution as the New Town was when it was established 200 years ago.

Sir Terry compares the area to the city centre riverside area in Lisbon but believes the key to the success is the integration of the new developments with the old port of Leith.

"The idea of a waterfront city has huge potential which must not be squandered," he adds. "It could be developed along a continuous boardwalk, such as the Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes. This connects up places for the sheer pleasure of experiencing the city."

Similarly, he describes Leith Walk as having the potential of becoming one of the "great streets of Europe" – the Edinburgh equivalent of the Ramblas in Barcelona.


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WITHOUT huge levels of traffic, Picardy Place would once again be a social place that is a joy to visit – but as it stands at the moment, Sir Terry believes it requires a complete rethink.

If nothing is done, the traffic problem will be exacerbated when trams are introduced, as cars and buses are squeezed into even less space.

He believes the area would benefit from creating a modern equivalent of the pedestrian squares which existed at Picardy Place, until they were demolished in the 1960s. Sir Terry has also welcomed the plans for an 850 million revamp of the area around the St James Centre, which will see new streets, public squares, two hotels and scores of shops and flats introduced into the area.

He says: "Picardy Place is a pivotal node and addressed correctly it has the potential for considerable architectural, urban and for commercial development opportunities which could pay for much of the improvements."


SIR TERRY describes the West End as the new Wall Street of Edinburgh. But although he designed the original phases of this financial district in the 1980s, his view is that the area is unfinished.

He is backing an ambitious 20 million scheme for an underground film complex at Festival Square and would like to see new buildings on Morrison Street and on derelict land close to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Improved pedestrian facilities are also needed in the area and he has suggested a new link that crosses between the Usher Hall and Festival Square.


FORMER city council leader Donald Anderson today said he shared Sir Terry's frustration at the slow progress of development in Edinburgh.

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Although it was Labour's planning leader Trevor Davies who was instrumental in conceiving the Edinburgh Design Initiative – a forum of politicians, planners and architects with Sir Terry at its helm – the renowned architect clearly felt not everyone shared the former planning leader's enthusiasm.

"The new administration has a completely new way of looking at things," says Sir Terry. "I'm talking to the council leader a lot and she's got a lot of time for me. I never talked to the previous leader at all."

Mr Anderson, who is now director at planning consultants PPS Scotland, said: "I always made every effort to give Terry the time and attention that he deserved. His theories were very interesting, but as leader my focus was on delivery and Terry always reported directly to Trevor.

"The one project I am aware of that was championed by Sir Terry was the whole idea of a boardwalk along the waterfront and everybody welcomed that. But . . . anyone who works in development in Edinburgh will be frustrated by the timescales.

"I'm usually criticised for going too fast and pressing ahead with developments, so it's refreshing to have a view from Terry that things didn't happen quickly enough."

Huge turnout for meeting on docks plan

MORE than 120 people turned out to a public meeting on the future of Leith Docks last night.

The two-hour conference was hosted by Joined Up Master Planning (Jump), a group calling for an alternative to proposals being considered for Leith Docks.

The meeting heard how the area would "change beyond all recognition" if the Forth Ports plan was approved.

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The audience in the Thomas Morton Hall heard how the biggest planning application ever considered in Edinburgh was four times the size of Donald Trump's controversial proposed golf resort near Aberdeen.

Edinburgh North and Leith MSP Malcolm Chisholm opened the meeting saying that, although he could not endorse everything Jump was arguing for, he "commended the thrust of what is being said".

He said: "This is worth listening to. It is a major development of crucial importance to Leith."

Jump co-founder Shaeron Averbuch said: "Something of this scale requires community engagement."

It is envisaged that in 30 years' time, 15,000 homes would be built at Leith Docks.

Jump's alterative plan includes more facilities such as schools.