Spaces for People: Edinburgh scheme to remain for 18 months but with key changes

Edinburgh City Council has voted to retain its Spaces for People schemes for at least another 18 months - but will remove measures around the city’s shopping districts and ‘engage’ with residents on the controversial Lanark Road scheme.

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At a full council meeting today, the administration set out the schemes it will take forward using Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs), which allow the council to retain Spaces for People(SfP) measures for a further 18 months.

In addition, the council has decided to review the temporary cycle lanes on Lanark Road, which has encapsulated the divisive debate between motorists who want to reduce congestion and retain on-street parking, and pro-sustainable travel campaigners who want safer and greener infrastructure for cycling and walking.

A massive turnout underlined the strength of feeling about the Lanark Road cycle lane

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    Previously, council officers had recommended the ruling SNP/Labour administration keep the SfP lanes on Lanark Road, which have come in for criticism from residents who say the removal of the dual carriageway causes congestion, and who want to park on the street rather than on their private drives.

    Residents opposed to the cycle lanes on Lanark Road also say cyclists can use the Water of Leith walkway and cycle route, but cyclists say the path is unfit for purpose, particularly in winter conditions and at night.

    Against the recommendation of officers, and in response to criticism from local residents, the administration then decided it would be removing the cycle lanes, which provoked a backlash from the city’s cyclists and sustainable travel campaigners, who staged a protest on the road earlier this week.

    Some elements of Spaces for People have not proved popular

    The SNP/Labour administration has now delayed making a decision on the road at all, by asking council officers to once again engage with local residents and to provide a report in September.

    The current measures were introduced using Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (TTROs) which council officers say are used to reduce ‘specific risks’ to the public – in this case the transmission of the coronavirus.

    Now, the ETROs will be used as an ‘experimenting and learning’ exercise over the next 18 months – meaning some Spaces for People schemes will have been in place three years before going through a formal legislative process.

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    The council says it is switching to ETROs because during the pandemic traffic and public transport levels have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

    A Conservative Party amendment to the SNP/Labour administration’s motion asked the council to focus more on the consultation, which attracted a much larger set of consultees, the majority of which opposed Spaces for People.

    The Conservatives also wanted the schemes to be retained using full Traffic Regulation Orders, as opposed to the temporary ETROs but were defeated by 26 votes to 20.

    Among the schemes that will now be retained using ETROs is the pedestrianisation of Waverley Bridge, Cockburn Street and Victoria Street, and the protected cycle lanes on Old Dalkeith Road, Crewe Road South, and Comiston Road.

    The closures to general traffic on Cammo Walk and Silverknowes Road North will also be retained.

    The majority of Spaces for People measures on shopping streets will now be removed.

    These schemes were designed to facilitate social distancing during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, but impacted heavily on servicing, parking and, in some cases, bus services.

    The pedestrian and cycle infrastructure on Forrest Road and George IV Bridge will also be removed.

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