Leith community: ‘Tram extension plans are being rushed’

The tram extension to Newhaven is still a matter of heated debate.
The tram extension to Newhaven is still a matter of heated debate.
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RESIDENTS along the route of the proposed tram extension are demanding “solid evidence” that the mistakes of the original project will not be repeated.

A joint statement by four community councils offers support in principle for taking the route down Leith Walk and along to Newhaven, but voices concern that plans are being rushed and local people are not being kept fully informed.

It calls for an independent appraisal of the economic impact of construction work on local businesses and a “realistic” compensation scheme to help them.

The statement says: “The communities that we represent are understandably extremely eager that the mistakes of the previous tram construction works should not be repeated. We think all sides can agree on that. Consequently the community is seeking a high standard of solid evidence that this time the work will be better planned and implemented.”

The four community councils - Leith Central; Leith Links; Leith Harbour and Newhaven; and New Town and Broughton - say if it is done well, the proposed extension is “an important opportunity for the broader social and economic development of the Leith area and beyond”.

But they say communities along the route must not be adversely affected “more than is absolutely necessary”.

They acknowledge some local consultation, but say promised presentations have been cancelled and requests for additional information have frequently not been answered.

“This leaves the unavoidable impression that issues are being rushed and key information is not being shared. We fear in such circumstances that mistakes, a lack of incorporation of community concerns, and oversights, are all possible.

“The result is that, as of the present time, the four CCs which are party to this submission do not have the level of confidence and standard of evidence that our communities need.”

The outline business case for the £165 million project was approved by the council in September but a final decision on whether it should go ahead is expected in December.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said the council was working closely with local people and businesses to refine designs and project plans.

She said the response from the Leith community in the first phase of consultation in the spring was “absolutely fantastic”.

She said: “More than 1500 people came along to our public information events and over 8000 individual comments were submitted.

“The process gave us a huge amount of feedback and ideas from residents, traders and local groups, which the project team have been using over the last few weeks to revisit the plans and work on potential amendments based on the key issues raised during consultation.

“Nothing is set in stone design-wise and, indeed, we’ll be back out for further public engagement on the updated plans in September before taking a final decision.”

The council said it had aslo invited the chair and vice chair of each community council to take part in an ongoing community council forum during the construction.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com