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Re-imagining The Future of Edinburgh’s High Streets – Our Study Trip

Landscape Architect
June 15 2021

Re-imagining the High Streets of Edinburgh.

Last month HarrisonStevens team had a fun day visiting three local High Streets as well as enjoying the wonderful weather. The team was split into pairs and each pair visited two sites from Stockbridge, Bruntsfield and Corstorphine, all high streets which feature as test studies for the Scottish Government’s 20minute neighbourhood programme. Prior to the trip, we were encouraged to do desk study – set the 15/20min circle based on distance and seek potentials for biodiversity and active travel in the three areas. The objective of the trip was to use the learning from our previous CPD ‘High Street Task Force’ and ’15 minute city’, re-think the future of High Streets and how to prioritise pedestrians, biodiversity and active travel. The Scottish Government is currently promoting the ‘20 Minute Neighbourhood’ concept, which enables people to have access to shops, workplaces, healthcare, and places to socialise within a 20 minute walk or cycle.

A week after the site visits, a design + presentation session was held online, where we all took active part in re-imagining the future of Edinburgh’s High Streets. The session lasted for three hours, people sketched out their ideas using different methods and tools. The outcomes really surprised everyone – the different scales of time and place were considered and presented. Some were pragmatic, others more fanciful. Some were detailed and some more broad brush, and some were thinking short-term with others looking to the future. We had Stockbridge as a horticultural village, personal mobility pods running in Bruntsfield and modular planter benches along Corstorphine.

Some of the more extreme ideas included connecting the Union Canal into Bruntsfield, so all travel, custom and conversation can happen via the canal, there are no more roads. Bruntsfield the Venice of Scotland.

This was a meaningful exercise on several counts. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it provided an opportunity to get some much-needed sunshine during lockdown. Secondly, the brief enabled us to stretch our creative muscles and come up with some truly inventive solutions. Finally, this topic is close to HarrisonStevens’ heart. Mike has been appointed as an Export on the High Streets Task Force to help communities and local government transform their high streets, so we all have an interest in this agenda and supporting the great work this initiative creates.

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