20mph plan still on track after Tory vote fails

The new 20mph limit is going ahead as planned. Picture: Julie Bull
The new 20mph limit is going ahead as planned. Picture: Julie Bull
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AN 11th-hour attempt by the Tories to have the city-wide 20mph speed limit plan thrown out has failed.

Around 80 per cent of the city’s roads will be affected by the controversial scheme, which won backing from councillors last year.

What we want to do now is work to raise awareness and share information amongst drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to ensure a smooth transition.

Lesley Hinds

But the Conservatives made a final call for the idea to be scrapped at yesterday’s meeting of the transport committee amid claims it was too costly and would increase pollution and congestion.

The Tory amendment was rejected as members voted ten to three in favour of Edinburgh becoming Scotland’s first 20mph city.

The new speed limit will now be rolled out in six phases, beginning with the city centre in July.

A recent Twitter poll by the Evening News found 64 per cent of readers were against the proposals but the council received only 54 objections during the formal consultation period.

Putting forward the failed amendment, Conservative transport spokesman Councillor Nick Cook argued that the proposals could increase both congestion and pollution.

He said: “As a capital city and a key engine of growth in Scotland’s economy, as a local authority we have a duty to keep this city moving – its people and its businesses. We mustn’t jeopardise this.

“The ‘blanket’ approach proposed – covering some 80 per cent of city streets – will dilute effectiveness of targeted areas which genuinely need and benefit from 20mph zones, such as outside schools.

“We are concerned, too by the cost of this project – almost £2.5 million at a time of significant financial challenge for the council.”

Transport chiefs hope that reducing traffic speeds would cut accidents, encourage more walking and cycling, reduce congestion and pollution and improve the local environment.

Transport leader Councillor Lesley Hinds insisted the scheme would deliver “a range of benefits” to both residents and visitors.

She said: “These proposals, aiming to create safer, more attractive streets for all road users, follow a great deal of consultation with the public, which found that the majority of citizens were in support. These moves will no doubt involve a culture change for all those who live in and travel through the city, but what we want to do now is work to raise awareness and share information amongst drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to ensure a smooth transition.”

A map of 20mph, 30mph and 40mph limits for the city was passed by transport committee in January last year.

The 20mph roll-out is the first of its kind in Scotland and will be phased in over a period of 24 months, with key arterial routes – including Ferry Road, St John’s Road and Telford Road – keeping their current limits.

Ian Maxwell, of Lothian cycle campaigners Spokes, said: “Major traffic schemes are bound to cause some opposition, but once the scheme is put in place it will get public support. Edinburgh needs to take radical steps to become a civilised 21st-century city.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com