'Glimmer of hope' in battle to halt controversial Edinburgh traffic scheme

QUESTIONS over the legality of controversial traffic plans offer a “glimmer of hope” for residents fighting to stop a series of road closures under Covid emergency powers.
Alex Cole-Hamilton addressed the open-air public meeting at Gyle ParkAlex Cole-Hamilton addressed the open-air public meeting at Gyle Park
Alex Cole-Hamilton addressed the open-air public meeting at Gyle Park

Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said the Low Traffic Neigbourhood (LTN) proposals for East Craigs could still be halted if the council got legal advice that they were unlawful.

Officials told the transport committee on Thursday the council’s legal department was considering whether to seek external legal advice after campaign group Get Edinburgh Moving submitted counsel’s opinion which claimed introducing an LTN as an emergency measure was materially different from the emergency measures introduced elsewhere.

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The committee voted 7-4 to approve a revised version of the scheme under the Spaces for People programme, despite a plea by ward councillors for consultation with the community before anything was implemented. But opposition councillors referred the issue to full council for final decision.

Mr Cole-Hamilton, who organised a controversial open-air public meeting attended by up to 1,000 people on the proposed scheme, said the delay until October 15 provided “another chance to halt this process and for legal opinion to be heard”.

He said the committee’s vote in favour of going ahead with the scheme without the requested consultation was “a massive blow” for local people who had campaigned to have a say.

“The one glimmer of hope is that council officials have advised the committee that they are taking legal advice on whether this is a misuse of the Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders under which these changes are being brought in.

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“These orders can bypass a public consultation as they are meant to be temporary. As such they may well be unlawful given the suggestion they will be made permanent. If the legal advice says the use of TTRO is unlawful, they will have to pause the implementation.

"At the heart of this the council are using Spaces for People money made available by the Scottish Government to increase social distancing for the duration of the pandemic. However, the planned changes go much further than the requirements of public health and the council leadership have already signalled these changes will be made permanent.

“We were told repeatedly that the original proposals were set in stone yet the council have now revised these proposals, so they clearly recognise they got the first draft wrong.

“This has been a dark episode for local democracy. I’m determined to keep fighting. Lib Dems are not opposed to Spaces For People proposals that work for local communities and have supported 15 out of 17 schemes across the city, but these proposals will actually increase car journey times and put huge pressure on arterial pinch points. If the administration had bothered to ask the community, they would have learned that.”

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The proposed road closures and other restrictions are intended to stop motorists rat-running through residential streets.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said she was disappointed by the referral to full council. She said: “I don’t think there’s much benefit in taking it to full council other than to act as a substantial degree of delay.”

The road changes are likely to be implemented within four to six weeks if given the final go ahead.

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