Picardy Place – a local perspective

Dear Spurtle  

I read the recent articles on Picardy Place and have just seen the Zone Architects proposal on your website

I wanted to say I immediately LOVED the feel of the new proposal. I have lived in this area for 20 years, first in Gayfield Square, now top of Easter Road, so London Rd, Leith St and  Picardy Place are what I experience all the time. 

Leith St and York Place are the routes I use to access the city centre. I shop in Leith Walk, Broughton St and John Lewis. I catch the tram in York Place. I go to the Vue at Omni with my children. I meet friends in St Andrew Square. I walk or use buses up these routes SO regularly.

For decades I have hated Leith St/Picardy Place, because:

  • The tunnel effect in Leith St means the noise of buses is oppressive, since all the new buildings were built.
  • The steepness of Leith St makes vehicles rev their engines so it is bad for exhaust smellI and I hate walking up it, because of the above, and the the new buildings being so disappointingly ugly, but it is the natural route.
  • The Picardy Place roundabout is so long-winded to get round. When I want to go home along London Rd from Broughton St I always feel exhausted in advance.
  • My children like the Paolozzis to play on, that space is a natural stop if you have come out of John Lewis and they need a play after having to behave indoors. But cars can drive over the bit in front of St Mary’s so I can’t relax – I’m always tense shouting ‘Car!' each time.
  • The view of the trees on Calton Hill was gorgeous, I felt cheated when the new offices were built (the one with the Starbucks).
  • The pavement near the Omni and Starbucks is narrow and I have to fight not to get pushed off down the Omni steps. Why do there have to be steps there? They feel wrong. As does the chrome barrier near where the car boot sale is.
  • The roundabout doesn’t work anyway - it is so often gridlocked because people jump the queue and block exits. Wouldn’t traffic lights be better because drivers would need to stop a bit further apart? (I know people jump lights, too, but modern knowledge and systems could surely use latest methods to minimise it?)

I feel every time that I am, as a pedestrian, really a second-class citizen, and harassed. That's a bad feeling to have repeated, whenever you try to access the centre of your town, every week for 20 years! 

I think the buses are better and more efficient with their new route at the moment while Leith St is closed. They used to be notorious for taking an eternity to get through the York Place/Leith St portion. I get buses that now go along Regent Rd, and York Place (e.g. the 5 and the 26) and often it has been wonderful getting into town so fast, such a relief.  

And note, I also own a car and drive. I am not a non-driver with bias. But I would normally avoid Picardy Place as a driver, because of the frequent gridlock, I would use alternate routes, so couldn't we help disperse cars anyway? Using Regent Rd seems more logical to relieve London Rd/Leith St, because it is open on one side and not lined with buildings, so the fumes can disperse, and nobody lives along it to be affected by heavy traffic. 

The thought of trees up Leith St, to muffle the noise, really cheered me up. And the V-shape of the junction idea reminded me of old towns built organically, following routes that you can tell were humans' natural choices – they felt right. 

I suppose I ought to write this to someone in the Council! But I am not sure who, to have any influence?

Mhairi Scott

(Easter Road)