Edinburgh council bosses asked to call immediate halt to Lanark Road 'Spaces for People' scheme

Council bosses have been formally asked to call an immediate halt to a controversial Spaces for People scheme amid claims that emails show the measures were drawn up on the whim of one official.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th March 2021, 2:44 pm

Tory councillor Jason Rust has written to city council chief executive Andrew Kerr requesting that he restore Lanark Road to its previous lay-out and calling for "an urgent immediate investigation into the conception of this scheme".

He added: "In light of information obtained, I have serious concerns about the legality of the Lanark Road Spaces for People scheme and I am not confident at all about the council position."

Cllr Rust claims that emails released to campaign group South West Edinburgh in Motion under Freedom of Information appear to indicate the Lanark Road scheme was "unilaterally conceived and promoted by a single council employee" and not on the basis of any public health evidence but as an extension of another scheme he was already working on.

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Councillor Jason Rust wants an immediate halt to the Lanark Road scheme
Councillor Jason Rust wants an immediate halt to the Lanark Road scheme

Cllr Rust said that would explain why Lanark Road did not feature in the list of projects approved by the council's policy committee in May 2020.

An email from an official to a colleague, dated June 12, 2020 said: “In working up the Slateford Road/Longstone project which provides a parallel route to the canal, I have extended the provision on Slateford Road out significantly South West on Lanark Road to at least Kingsknowe, but I could quite easily extend it further to Spylaw. There is lots of width, no bus lanes and no formal parking provision. I’d be keen to increase this scope to capture this...”

He attached a map with a red line up Lanark Road from the junction with Inglis Green Road to Gillespie crossroads.

Cllr Rust said: "Only four hours following this, the officer briefed Sustrans to design the scheme, giving them a deadline of a fortnight to work out miles of complex roads. The plans, which ultimately removed every single disabled parking space from three miles of carriageway and has been overwhelmingly opposed by local residents."

Emails suggest the design work on the scheme was done in London

Another email appears to show the design was being done by a Sustrans engineer based in London.

Cllr Rust said in his letter: "Please bear in mind that the scheme, which appears to have been designed remotely off a map in London, impacts on thousands of households and numerous businesses including 6 child centred businesses serving 1,000 families a week with healthy activity.

"The emails between the council and the design engineers appear to make clear this scheme did not originate as a response to a Covid transmission risk, and suggest the scheme cannot legally fall within the scope of the emergency legislation or the guidance provided by the Scottish Government."

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said she was satisfied the Spaces for People programme had been properly planned on a lawful basis.

“The Lanark Road scheme has been developed by transport officers in response to increasing congestion on the Union Canal and Water of Leith footpaths and to help people make essential journeys safely and comfortably on bike.

“As part of this we’ve closely followed the engagement process agreed by committee, and have made every effort to respond to community concerns to amend the scheme where possible, including adding additional parking. ”

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