A Council engagement event played out earlier today in Broughton St Mary’s Parish Church.
It was intended to explain to, and answer questions from, the public about proposals for bin-hubs across Broughton.
Some of those who attended (mostly, we think, in the Edinburgh World Heritage Site) had received postal notification of the event. Others in Broughton received no notification, and depended on publicity from Spurtle and the New Town & Broughton Community Council.
Not the Council’s finest hour
Nevertheless many people attended. In the crowded Garden Room, three beleaguered representatives (one Waste Management specialist), one Council roads engineer, and one bin-consultant from Changeworks yelled answers to yelled questions from behind face masks. The event was a farce.
No one could easily hear anything. Everyone was shouting at everybody else to make themselves heard.
Council staff looked uneasy and defensive.
Frustrated members of the public interrupted each other in an effort to secure attention.
There was no management of numbers. Social distancing went out of the window.
There was scarcely any printed material to consult, and what there was could not be taken away because there weren’t enough copies.
There were no maps displayed showing where the bin-hubs may go. This was apparently because the plans have not been finalised. However, representatives were confused to learn that maps for their N1 area (the subject of this event) were already freely available on the Council’s website.
There were no forms for members of the public to fill in with their opinions. Council representatives occasionally struggled to take down points on their mobile phones.
There was no clarity about if, when, and how further rounds of consultation on bin-hub locations may take place.
In short, an utter shambles
It did nothing to restore confidence in the Council’s ability or willingness to listen and learn. It felt like a one-way conversation; the repetition of an as yet half-baked plan based on an irreversible decision.
Spurtle suspects it will have disillusioned most of those who attended, and hardened opposition to the bin-hub proposals, particularly across the New Town.
What did we learn?
Not much new.
The Council claims bin-hubs will improve:
- cleanliness of bins
- cleanliness of streets
- frequency of collection (every other day)
- quality and quantity of recycling
- ease with which new designs of bin can be used
- ease with which bins can resist informal repositioning.
Critics say bin-hubs will:
- attract fly tipping
- introduce additional offensively smelly food-waste bins
- replace occasional spillages with continuous spillages
- ruin the Edinburgh World Heritage Site streetscape
- not do away with multiple collection methods in contiguous neighbourhoods
- run into problems because no Environmental Impact Assessment has been undertaken
- fail to materialise via a democratic process including fair and competent consultation.
Questions still to be answered include:
- At what distance will bin-hubs be situated? Some say 50 m, some say 80 m.
- Will the distance between bin-hubs be for the whole street or for each side of the street?
- How are decisions reached about when it’s appropriate to cross a road to reach a bin-hub?
- Does the Council have enough financial and staff resources to run the proposed new arrangements?
In the absence of clear practical guidance at today’s event, we turn to the Council’s website for clues. It seems we have until 3 December to respond by email here quoting the reference TRO 21/16.
And to repeat, detailed maps of possible bin locations in the N1 area are available here.
There will be an opportunity to respond to Traffic Regulation Orders affecting road layouts and parking in spring next year, but – as we understand it – this will be more about fine-tuning than basic principles or equally contentious issues which don't narrowly affect road layouts and parking.
It is to be hoped that future engagement events will be much better organised, more informative, and more meaningful. They are scheduled as follows:
- OLD TOWN RESIDENTS:—Wednesday 24 November, noon–4.00pm, The Crannie, 9 Cranston Street.
- STOCKBRIDGE & INVERLEITH RESIDENTS:—Friday 19 November, 11am–3.00pm, Stockbridge Parish Church, 7B Saxe-Coburg Street.
- WEST END RESIDENTS:—Tuesday 30 November, noon–4.00pm, Walpole Hall, St Mary’s Cathedral, Palmerston Place.