We’ve been following the progress of the debate over pedestrian access to the new Healthy Living Centre that is currently under construction in Wester Hailes. It became clear to local residents last year that access to the new centre had not been designed as fit for purpose, relying on an existing underpass that was not fully accessible for anyone with a disability or for parents with pushchairs. The story has been featured in the blog as the fight to improve this underpass is not a new one, dating right back to 1996 when it was partially blocked, forcing everyone to use steep stairs to continue using the underpass which was simply not an option suitable for everyone as this story in the Sentinel showed.
Despite community efforts at the time to have the underpass improved, it remained in this state until this year. However, the arrival of the Healthy Living Centre required improved access routes. Although the planners had designed a potential solution, it was within a restricted space and seemed unsatisfactory to local residents who felt it was inadequate to meet the needs of the community. The Community Council pushed for new negotiations with the owners of the Plaza over the use of car parking space. They also asked for a public joint meeting of the two Neighbourhood Partnerships to look at other possible options and to ensure that local councillors and council officers heard the views of the community directly. And they publicised the meeting thoroughly to ensure people knew the meeting was taking place. It was clear from the high attendance and from the views expressed that an alternative access proposal was wanted by the community.
The City Council recognised the strength of local feelings over the issue and relooked at the proposals. At last week’s community council meeting, local representatives heard that the matter was now due to go to a full Edinburgh City Council meeting where the expectation was that a new proposal would be approved in full. This would ensure that the underpass had proper pedestrian access through a straight low gradual slope so that it would be suitable for all abilities and needs. Without the efforts and persistence of the Community Council it seems unlikely that this would have been the end result. It’s great to know that Wester Hailes still has a strong voice and the ability to influence decisions that affect the community.