The Quaich project (West Princes Street Gardens) Stakeholder meeting 15th May

Several members from NTBCC (as well as the Old Town Community Council) attended the recent Stakeholder meeting with the Ross Development Trust along with representatives from The Cockburn Association , Edinburgh World Heritage and Historic Environment Scotland amongst others.

Below is a summary of the key points discussed and attendees.

The third Quaich Project/Ross Development Trust (West Princes Street Gardens) ‘stakeholder group’ meeting was held on 15 May 2019. (Previous meetings were on 18 July 2018, and 14 March 2019).

Present: CEC (Karl Chapman, Cultural Venues Manager, in charge of the Ross Bandstand, Tasha MacKenzie, Cllr. Claire Miller), the Cockburn Association (Terry Levinthal), Essential Edinburgh (Roddy Smith), Edinburgh World Heritage (Fiona Rankin), Historic Environment Scotland, OTCC (Patrick Keady), NTBCC (Allan Jack, Simon Holledge), RDT (Donald Anderson, David Ellis, Julian Farrar), wHY Architects (Mark Thomann, and local architectural and engineering partners).

The meeting was chaired by Julian Farrar (RDT/Farrar Ironside), at pains to clarify the design, funding and planning application processes, and likely schedule.

  • Design Stage 2 (concept and outline) was now finishing.
  •  Stage 3 would start soon. This more detailed stage would lead to another round of public consultations, including ‘drop-in’ sessions, probably between July and September, in advance of planning applications eventually going in around March 2020. Planning decisions should follow six to nine months later.
  • Design Stage 4 (technical) would precede construction work in 2022.

About £6 million had been secured of the £25 million funding required for the project. The Quaich Project ‘rebranding’ and various events were part of the fundraising effort. (Julian Farrar acknowledged that the consultation and promotion (fundraising) should be kept separate.)

CEC were producing a ‘business case’ (also addressing the controversial issue of ‘events’) to be written by Karl Chapman and Tasha MacKenzie.  This would go to the CEC Transport and Environment Committee, in the first quarter of 2020. A private act of parliament would be required to permit the park construction. This would be drafted in March 2020.

A number of participants (the Cockburn, EWH, HES) emphasized the importance of an early Heritage Statement, (as recommended by UNESCO), to properly inform the design.

Mark Thomann (wHY Architects, New York) explained the wHY design approach and the ‘building package’ components, viz. 1. Gateway Building, 2. Ross Pavilion, 3. master plan (including the amphitheatre), 4. ‘the flexible space’ (area west of the fountain), 5. bridges, 6. shelters.

In conclusion, Julian Farrar ‘flagged’ the following key issues: 1. detailed scheduling, 2. heritage statement, 3. link to City Transformation plan, 4. ‘planning engagement’, 5. ‘the flexible space’ options, 6. next stage design package, 7. CEC business case, with the issue of large events remaining “the elephant in the room”.

The next meeting would be in 6 to 8 weeks time.