Final decision on controversial Edinburgh traffic scheme to be postponed pending legal advice
The scheme, which includes road closures and junction alterations to prevent rat-running, was due for final approval at the full council meeting tomorrow.
But it is understood the administration will instead call for the matter to be referred to a future meeting of the transport and environment committee once the council has got its own legal advice on claims it is overstepping the mark with the project.
Local activists raised thousands of pounds to obtain a formal opinion from an advocate on the legality of the Low Traffic Neighburhood (LTN) scheme, which was submitted to the committee on October 1.
The opinion, commissioned by the Get Edinburgh Moving campaign group, argued the proposals – funded under the Spaces for People programme – go beyond the scope of what can be done under the emergency powers to introduce traffic measures to make physical distancing easier for pedestrians and cyclists.
It said introducing the planned LTN in East Craigs was materially different from the emergency measures implemented elsewhere.
Many of the measures were already under consideration as part of a longer-term scheme before the Covid crisis.
The opinion said: “It is difficult to escape the conclusion that [the council] has used the pandemic as a pretext to introduce a change that it might otherwise have found difficult to implement.
“It appears to me the council has gone much further than the minimum necessary in order to deal with the dangers arising from the pandemic and the easing out of lockdown. Accordingly, in my view, the decision is prima facie unlawful and ought to be reduced.”
In an accompanying letter to the committee, David Hunter, chair of Get Edinburgh Moving, cited the 2,650 signatures on a petition against the LTN. He said: “The council has so far refused to listen to this clear democratic message, which has left residents feeling concern, anxiety and stress.”
A call to pause the LTN until the council could check the legal position was dismissed at the committee, which voted in favour of implementing the scheme, but opposition councillors referred it to full council for final decision, protesting that full local consultation was still needed despite adjustments to the measures.
However, now it is understood transport convener Lesley Macinnes will propose an amendment at tomorrow’s meeting deferring the final decision.
A City Chambers insider said: “Sadly, this is symptomatic of the council’s unwillingness to listen to anyone who has concerns about how Spaces for People is being implemented in Edinburgh. It also raises searching questions about the legal basis of the existing schemes and those in the pipeline. This is a real concern given the impact the project has had on small businesses and vulnerable people in some parts of the city.”
Cllr Macinnes said: “At the last transport and environment committee members fully scrutinised proposals for a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in East Craigs, which had been revised to reflect local concerns. Following its referral to full council we will continue to discuss this matter in detail to find a productive way forward.”