Location: Edinburgh, UK
Category: The Great Neighbourhood Award
The Stockbridge neighbourhood is a very credible and strong candidate for Neighbourhood of the Year.
It has a very distinctive sense of place with an attractive human scale and strong network of streets on either side of the Water of Leith, and just to the northern edge of the Georgian New Town, of which it is a more intimate, less rigid neighbour.
Unlike the other candidates it is very strongly residential with a population of over 7,000 supported by mixed community facilities – but with less major commercial employment than the other Nominations (and therefore perhaps more like the previous finalist of Clifton, Bristol). The 25-44 age group is strongly represented.
Its strengths lie in the diversity of house types and community facilities. Homes range from millionaire properties to artisan dwellings and Scottish tenements, although some of the poorer occupiers may have been squeezed out. There are lots of small specialist shops and services, the opposite of a ‘clone town’ feel.
Also very strong is the sense of community, which has enabled it to secure the retention of key local facilities like the library and swimming baths, as well as hold a range of community capacity building events.
Weaknesses might lie in its limited capacity to adapt and change with any new development – although there has been some. There is also the perception of a well-heeled gentrified ghetto, although the reality is that around one third of homes are rented (the rest owner occupied), and this has allowed for phased improvement and renewal over a long period.
Also it does not have a great range of employment – but with the nearby city centre it does not really need to.
All in all Stockbridge is perhaps the very image of an idealised ‘urban village’ – the kind of comfortable, convivial place with a good range of facilities, that many would aspire to live in.