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Edinburgh is the third city to be running a CCQOL project, and here, Stuart Tooley, Community Relations Manager at The University of Edinburgh, explains what it means for the city and how to get involved in ‘Our Edinburgh Neighbourhood’.


From controversies to conversations 

From controversies over new city centre hotels to debates on how we share our roads and pavements, Edinburgh’s conversation with itself has been fraught in recent years.

We may not all agree on what should change or how, but we do care deeply about what shapes our neighbourhoods and are proud to call Edinburgh home.

Considering these varying opinions on what our neighbourhoods should look like, we need to begin with improving how we speak to each other about our changing city. Community consultations have been the recognised process to include the local community in key decision making. This input is often put forward as a reason for, or as a block against, proposals going forwards. That feels only right.

As residents, workers, commuters, and community members we all have a stake in our city. We should not accept change without the input of those who will be most affected by it.

Looking through a 20-minute lens 

What is real community consultation, and how can it be improved? How can we move from passive consultation to active engagement? That is the question to be answered by a new project – Our Edinburgh Neighbourhood – that is being hosted by the University of Edinburgh, with partnership from the City of Edinburgh Council, EVOC (Edinburgh’s Voluntary Organisational Council), and the Scottish Government.

This project is all about finding out what is important to people in Edinburgh and getting your views. We want you to tell us what makes your neighbourhood special, what makes them strong and sustainable, what about it adds to your quality of life and wellness, and yes – what needs to change.

The approach we are taking is to look through the lens of 20-minute neighbourhoods. This is the development model that puts sustainability, accessibility, and your quality of life as its priority. It aims to create neighbourhoods where your daily services can be accessible within a 20-minute walk, cycle, or bus ride. We want to hear from you about the local assets (i.e. – your local GP, grocery stores, community centres, anything that contributes to your quality of life) that make this possible for you and your family.

To capture residents’ views of their city we will have a digital mapping tool created by Commonplace, to be launched on May 31st. You will be able to use this to pinpoint the places you love and value in your own neighbourhood and the city centre. By collecting this, we can create a bird’s eye view of the city in neighbourhoods, as well as evaluating this method of collecting information for the future.

How to get involved 

We will also be hosting a pop-up ‘urban room’ in Waverley Market on Princes St. This will explore how we use spaces to see what residents think of their neighbourhood and specifically the city centre. Opening June 13th, the space will be part exhibition, part meeting space – and we are looking forward to hosting events in the new urban room as it will be open until July 9th. We are inviting local organisations and institutions to use our space during this time. We want to solicit feedback from those who have ties to various local communities.

We invite Edinburgh residents and their respective community leaders to join in our effort in reforming the community consultation process.

Without genuine input from residents, we cannot properly shape our city for the future.

We want to move away from the tick-box approach many developers sometimes use that puts a minimum effort into real understanding. This has, with good reason, led to consultation fatigue for many communities throughout Edinburgh. For those most exercised about local issues, the lack of connection between a consultation and the final proposals has led to deep cynicism.

In that context, we want to explore how consultation can be done in way that sets the framework for meaningful and inclusive input, democratising development decision making. We will provide high quality research that is grounded in our city’s experience. That research will help shape consultations, and thus the city for a long time to come.