Edinburgh Labour councillor to quit transport committee over fears Spaces for People schemes could leave council open to legal challenge

A LABOUR councillor is to resign from the city council’s transport committee over fears that measures taken under the controversial Spaces for People programme could fall foul of the law.
Scott Arthur is to resign from the transport committeeScott Arthur is to resign from the transport committee
Scott Arthur is to resign from the transport committee

Backbencher Scott Arthur, who represents Colinton/Fairmilehead, said the Labour group had agreed controversial plans for East Craigs should be halted and all new Spaces for People schemes should be paused until an evidence-based report was produced showing the use of emergency powers was proportionate, but he understood their SNP coalition colleagues had blocked the requests.

And he said: “I have therefore decided not to put myself in a position of being asked to vote for something which I genuinely feel may leave the council open to legal challenge, and shall be asking to be removed from the transport and environment committee.”

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His move comes after the council was forced to take legal advice over whether it was exceeding its powers in using temporary traffic orders to introduce the proposed Low Traffic Neighbourhood in East Craigs. The advice, which the council has not made public, warned the plans could leave them open to legal challenge and the proposals have since been amended, but some of the controversial measures would still be taken forward under an alternative procedure despite strong local opposition.

Councillor Arthur has been critical of some of the Spaces for People schemes and broke the Labour whip by abstaining in a vote at a full council meeting in September.

Explaining his latest step in a post on Facebook, he said: “I have been working hard over the past few days to gain clarity on the legal and evidential basis for the latest batch of Spaces for People schemes. In addition to this I have been saying the council needs to listen to the needs of residents more when promoting these schemes.

“There are clear benefits to even the most controversial schemes such as the closure of Braid Road. They also, however, come with consequences for local residents and businesses.

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"In my view, the council has a duty to engage with the public and present evidence-based arguments which show the benefits outweigh the consequences. This is the only way to meet Edinburgh’s longer-term goal of increasing walking, cycling and public transport use.

"Community engagement, not just consultation, is key as it leads to better outcomes on infrastructure projects. It increases acceptance of decisions by the public, and provides a community commitment to outcomes.

“The council’s failure to engage with residents and businesses is why 92 per cent of 300-plus people who responded to the council’s ‘consultation’ on the Lanark Road Spaces for People scheme oppose it.”

He said as well as the call for a halt to the East Craigs proposals and a pause on new schemes until it was clear they fell within the law, the Labour group has also called for a study monitoring of pedestrian and cycle use of Braid Road in parallel with monitoring of traffic, public transport delays and air pollution on the A702 corridor, followed by a temporary re-opening of Braid Road to see how patterns changed, but this had also been blocked by the SNP.

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