Providing an evidence base for Edinburgh's park infrastructure investment


Digital Placemaking

Path by Bruntsfield Links
Photo: Benjamin Brock


The City of Edinburgh Council commissioned Calvium to investigate the city’s parks and establish which ones are most suited to the installation of new sensitive lighting, as part of their active travel action plan. Calvium’s report and recommendations were well received; providing key evidence that led to the award of an initial £500,000 investment.

By illuminating existing paths at nightfall, the city aims to enhance the perceived safety of its parks and encourage their use as sites of connection. In doing so, it is expected that more people will adopt active travel and public transport journeys, and the city will reap the associated health, economic and environmental benefits.


The City of Edinburgh Council seeks to enhance the quality of life of residents through its sustainable transport and active travel plans, as well as the ’20-minute neighbourhood’ concept. The Council understands that people’s perceived safety of being in unlit parks decreases after dusk. As the city’s parks are often key connecting routes between destinations, this means that many active travel and public transport journeys are foregone – due to people choosing cars, motorbikes or other motorised transport to move around the city safely. Therefore, it was determined that new lighting was needed to increase walking, wheeling and cycling through the parks after dusk.

It is important for the city that decisions about parks investment are informed by thorough and multi-dimensional research.

Gareth Barwell, Service Director – Operational Services, Place

The research did not cover the installation of lighting to increase dwell time after dark.                                                                                        .

Tree in Hermitage Place Edinburgh.
Photo: Tom Elm 

About the place-based research undertaken by Calvium

The study was divided into two stages. The first stage was a shortlisting activity, where Edinburgh’s 149 parks were assessed against three criteria, and ruled out of contention if appropriate. As such, 58 parks were identified as suitable candidates for assessment in stage two of the research.

The second stage evaluated the shortlisted parks using five critical place-based dimensions:                                                                                                           .

Local destinations, Transport, Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, Connecting paths, Perceptions
5 critical place-based dimensions

Having established these dimensions, where necessary, each one was further separated into ‘aspects’. Each dimension was assessed and scored. The five scores for each park were then combined to provide an overall score – a suitability rating. Further work was undertaken by weighting each dimension’s score, leading to the creation of a ranked table of recommended parks.

Key texts informed analysis of the data, including the City of Edinburgh’s Active Travel Action Plan, 20 Minute Neighbourhoods Strategy, Scotland’s Equally Safe Strategy and Goal 11 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals that seeks to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. As such, this research paid special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, disabled people and older people.

Table of parks and ratings under categories, with total to the right hand side

Park lighting output and results

The core output of this research has been the report: Park Lighting: Illuminating existing paths in Edinburgh’s parks. It summarises the project and provides a table of the recommended parks which have been grouped into bands of prioritisation for the installation of path lighting.

This report sits alongside a technical report by Atkins; both have been submitted to the City of Edinburgh Council as evidence for funding the parks lighting programme.

It was great to be awarded £500,000 to fund new lighting for the parks recommended by Calvium. It was a pleasure to work with the team and I enjoyed complete confidence in their process at every stage of the research. I look forward to commissioning them again in the future.

Gareth Barwell, Service Director – Operational Services, Place

Image of report cover


The importance of green spaces to cities is vital and well documented. Urban parks are entangled within the social, economic, cultural and environmental fabric of a city. Mostly, the narrative is about the park as a destination and not as a thoroughfare to connect places. This research was complex and fascinating as it concerned people’s sense of safety after dusk; encouraging them to use parks as active routes when walking, wheeling or cycling. 

The City of Edinburgh Council wished to discover which of its public parks had formal unlit paths where the installation of sensitive lighting would provide additional benefit for residents. Calvium was delighted to be commissioned to disentangle the multi-variable aspects of Edinburgh’s parks; systematically and with rigour. The report’s recommendations have been accepted and will radically improve people’s experience of Scotland’s capital. 

This research will support the City of Edinburgh Council to enhance the quality of life of Edinburgh’s residents and help the city to meet its ambitious target to become a net zero city by 2030.


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