Transport convener Lesley Macinnes vows to look at possible changes to controversial low-traffic neighbourhood plans

Residents call for scheme to be paused for full consultation

Monday, 31st August 2020, 7:30 am
The open-air meeting attracted a crowd estimated at up to 1,000 and lasted for about two hours

TRANSPORT convener Lesley Macinnes has vowed to look at possible changes to controversial plans for a “low traffic neighbourhood” after she faced a hostile reception at a public meeting attended by up to 1,000 residents.

But she said she remained convinced the overall scheme was still the right thing to do because similar projects had improved the quality of life in other cities.

The proposals for East Craigs, part of the Spaces for People programme, include road closures, junction changes and cycle lanes, which opponents say will mean massive lifestyle changes.

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Cllr Macinnes was booed, jeered and heckled at the open air meeting at Gyle Park on Friday night.

Afterwards she said she had committed to taking away the suggestions made by people at the meeting, along with others sent by email, to see what adjustments could be made.

“That’s a clear commitment from me to see what is possible and what is not.”

She insisted the strength of feeling at the meeting did not surprise her but claimed there were also residents in the area who supported the plans.

”I wasn’t surprised by the strength of feeling because I had been listening to the community’s concerns that had been expressed through emails. I’m also not surprised because every time a low-traffic neighbourhood concept has been proposed in other cities it has met the same degree of resistance. However the concept is a proven one that we know can bring a much greater quality of life to areas where it’s put in place.”

The East Craigs proposals have sparked a petition with up to 2,500 signatures calling for a rethink.

Sandy Smith, one of the residents co-ordinating the protests over the scheme, said she had been disappointed with Cllr Macinnes’s response at the meeting.

”We did not get the sense that she truly listened. None of her camp were taking notes on any of the points the audience made - there’s no way she’ll remember all of them, there were lots.

“We don’t have a huge amount of hope that she has actually listened, taken on board the feedback and will act on it.”

And Ms Smith continued: “We’re not going to leave it there. I’m going to send her an email and summarise for her, since she wasn’t taking notes, all the key concerns the residents raised and I’m going to specifically ask her to respond on each one of those points.”

She accused the council of misusing emergency powers designed to address issues around Covid as a way of introducing the low traffic neighbourhood (LTN). ”There is nothing to do with Covid safety in stopping cars from going along Craigs Road,” she said.

”Those emergency powers are for temporary small changes. The LTN is going to require everyone in the area to make wholesale lifestyle changes. That’s not a just a small thing that should be forced through on an emergency power basis.

“If there are minor things they want to plough ahead with which are specifically Covid-related then fair enough, but we want them to pause the plans for LTN and properly consult.”

Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, who chaired the meeting, said it had been an angry crowd.

“I have a lot of respect for Lesley Macinnes staying there for the best part of two hours and taking pelters all that time. But there is a sense in the community that their views count for nothing.

“This is not about technical changes or design tweaks. We are demanding a complete halt to these proposals so a full and detailed consultation can be undertaken with the local community.

“The government said when it gave the council this money it did not need to consult, but that’s because they were talking about widening pavements and introducing new cycle lanes. They have taken advantage of that latitude and brought in sweeping road closures which will effectively kettle 3,500 households so they are forced to access town via Queensferry Road or St John’s Road at Drum Brae or the Barnton junction, putting further pressure on those arterial routes.”

He accused the council of “leadership by imposition” and said the community was at risk of losing faith in democracy.

“If Lesley Macinnes does not listen to the voices of the thousand people that came then I believe she is derelict in her duty to local democracy and she should consider her position.”

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