An Urban Justice Project: Winchburgh Futures (January-May 2016)

Global Justice Academy Co-Director, Dr Tahl Kaminer, reflects on the Winchburgh Futures project that ran in ESALA at the beginning of this year.

An ESALA (Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture) team studied (2016) the current urban development around Winchburgh, West Lothian, in which a ring of 2000 or more housing units and a medium-scale town centre are being developed around an existing mining village of 2000 residents. The team responded to local residents’ request for support and advice regarding concerns for community cohesion and quality of development.

The study included meetings and interviews with professionals connected to the development firm, to West Lothian Council, and local residents, a charrette with locals, a charrette with school children, an analysis of the development plans and more. A series of proposals were developed and provided to the community, ranging from straight-forward minor interventions to proposals which require the support of major stakeholders or significant funding. The community has moved to create a Community Trust and become more involved in steering certain aspects of the development.

The work with the community addressed questions of planning and urban development in Scotland. The research exposed deep dissatisfaction among all parties involved regarding the process: the limited ability to steer the development not only by locals, but also by the council and by the developers; the cumbersome process; the mistrust which underpins the process and more. The work in Winchburgh forms part of a larger research ambition to promote changes in planning legislation, policies and practices in Scotland.

The work was construed first and foremost as support for the local community of Winchburgh. The involvement of the team in the village helped galvanise locals; the proposals provided theWinchburgh Community Council with a palette of options for effecting the development. The work here is part of a larger research project which aims at transforming planning legislation and policies in Scotland – though its contribution will be mostly indirect. The team included PG students from the MSc programme Urban Strategies and Design who greatly benefited from direct communication with stakeholders and actors and directly experienced the complexity of urban development.