When the city’s budget was passed in late February it was described in an Evening News editorial as having a strong moral compass. I’ll take that!
It’s a strong sense of purpose and an ethos that we should do that right thing that I hope will characterise our Administration’s work.
However it’s important to highlight the citizen involvement that went into our budget-setting process. It’s important that as an open, transparent administration, people feel able to contribute to the decision-making process. This not only leads to more confidence in the council’s decisions but better decisions being taken. Right now the council is wrestling with a number of challenges and none more important than the schools review currently ongoing for the south west of the city. I’d like to thank those who have participated and made their voice heard in the process so far. As the discussion continues on the options, the council will keep our strong moral compass to do what is right for young people in the area. We’ll listen carefully to the views coming forward from the communities affected to make sure we get the right decision to improvement attainment.
Another key issue for us as a city is how we cope with the growing population of our city and build enough capacity within our transport system to avoid future gridlock. An important part of our plans to address this is the extension of tram to Newhaven. Trams are carrying six million passengers a year between the west of Edinburgh and the city centre, with the business case for extension showing another eight million more hopping on the service. One of the biggest challenges in accommodating the growth in population is the demands it puts on our city centre. By extending trams we can increase capacity for those travelling into the centre by eight million without having to add any additional vehicles or trams onto Princes Street. Think of it this way: trams are already making the journey east-west along Princess Street, by extending to Leith those same trams will run from east to west but be able to carry passengers from Newhaven.
At the end of March, I helped launch the city’s management plan for the world heritage sites. This plan not only set out the challenges facing the Old and New Towns but some of the actions required to preserve our historic centre. Dealing with the impact of a growing residential and tourist population is a common thread with transport being a strong component.
It’s not just about increasing capacity in the city centre. The benefits to Leith and Newhaven could be enormous. There is a growing interest from developers and businesses in locating along the tram route. With brownfield land available along the proposed extension, it will mean more much-needed housing and jobs to the north of the city.
Just like the budget and schools review, it’s critical that we hear from people in Leith and beyond about the plans. Nothing is set in stone. We are keen to amend plans based on feedback to get the designs right for Leith Walk and get the decision right for the city. Conspiracy theories of a “done deal” or “final design” are untrue and frankly unhelpful as they deter people from submitting valid comments. Consultation events are still going on where you can speak to the team taking the project forward and you have until the end of April to give your comments. You can learn more and take part in the consultation by going to the “trams to Newhaven” page of the council’s website.