As Director of Development for The Quaich Project, I’m so inspired to be part of such an exciting project that will have a lasting impact for future generations. We have a fantastic opportunity to create a public space which is inviting, challenging and creatively engaging and accessible for all members of the community.
With the nights are starting to draw in, I’m looking forward to walking through West Princes Street Gardens on crisp sunny Autumn days when the vibrant green shades of summer change to rich reds, browns and golds. One of my favourite sights in the gardens this time of year is The Ross Fountain. It was the first restoration completed within The Quaich Project and it’s becoming a place for people to meet and contemplate its beauty. It’s wonderful to see the Fountain coming to life after dark too through new, sensitive lighting techniques which means it can be enjoyed by all through the winter months.
Just to the west of the Ross Fountain near the existing children’s playpark is an area called the ‘Blaes’. This area is currently paved and will be the location of the new Family Area. With fantastic views of Castle Rock, the space really is a blank canvas which has the potential to be an amazing play area providing a wide variety of activities including outdoor play, performance, and relaxation.
This prime city centre location will be a space where friendships will be formed and memories made by the local community and visitors alike. We’ve been speaking to key stakeholders, groups and organisations and members of the public about the importance of this Family Area, its design, facilities and what type of activities they’d like to see.
We were delighted to invite representatives from parent groups and the following organisations to a Focus Group with our architects GRAS to discuss our plans for the Family Area: Edinburgh & Lothian Greenspace Trust; The Yard; Edinburgh City Youth Café’ Dad’s Rock’ Early Years Nursery; Doune Terrace Nursery.
After teas & coffees were had and introductions made, David Ellis, The Quaich Project’s Managing Director, gave a presentation on the background to the Project. As the first member of The Quaich Project Team, he’s been in with the bricks (quite literally!) and is incredibly passionate and enthusiastic about seeing this Project taking shape.
The Focus Group had a tour to see first-hand the location of the Family Area and were very excited and enthused about the potential for this space: water features, encouraging climbing and clambering, adventure playgrounds and sensory play were just some of the ideas discussed. Ensuring the Family Area and gardens have improved access for all was a key issue raised by all attendees.
Inspired by their tour of the gardens, the Group then held a lively workshop discussion – note for next time, bring more post-it notes! – on the types of space, equipment, improved access, features such as baby change, toilets & catering options and other examples of public spaces.
Lesley who attended the session sent this lovely photo and quote that I’m sharing with you:
“As a mum of 2 children aged 8 and 4 and with my elder child having a disability which affects her cognitively and physically, it is extremely important for us to have a play space in the centre of Edinburgh which is fun, inspiring and most importantly accessible for all!”
Our architects will now work on the 2nd stage of designs to directly respond to the feedback from this Focus Group. One thing that came through loud and clear was that children and young people need to have a say in plans for the Family Area. We’re now planning a Young Person’s discussion forum and can’t wait to hear their thoughts and views.
The Quaich Project will be holding open public consultation sessions later this year to give residents an opportunity to review the designs, complete an online questionnaire and speak to our Team about the proposals in more detail. Following on from this public consultation, the next stage involves developing our concept design in much greater detail, leading to a planning application being submitted to the City of Edinburgh Council in Spring 2020.
Please keep an eye out on social media channels and your in-box for more information on the public consultation and opportunities to have your say on the future of West Princes Street Gardens.
Jules Haston, Director of Development
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