Is Edinburgh Council big enough to change East Craigs road plans? – Steve Cardownie
The city’s SNP/Labour administration lays great store in its commitment to consult interested parties on any major new initiatives prior to making a final decision on draft plans. Indeed the council has a Consultation Hub online which provides details of the issue being consulted on and the closing date for receipt of comments. Consultation can be a very important component of policy forming, particularly if the issue has long-term effects and there is no urgency associated with its implementation. Although there sometimes may be a tendency to “consult to the death” rather than have the courage to just make a decision, those occasions are, thankfully, few and far between.
This paper reported on Monday that Lesley Macinnes, the city transport convenor, had attended a meeting with local people on Friday night to hear their concerns regarding the proposed introduction of a “low traffic neighbourhood” in their area, East Craigs, as part of the Spaces for People Programme. With more than 1,000 people attending, it no doubt proved to be a pretty daunting experience but one which comes with the territory.
The comments attributed to her afterwards make for interesting reading and will no doubt be noted by those in attendance at the meeting who opposed the proposals, which, I suspect, was just about everybody.
It is reported that she is committed to taking away the suggestions made by people at the meeting to see what adjustments could be made, which is all well and good. However, she also said: “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.” Then, perhaps tellingly: “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,” going on to say: ”However, the concept is a proven one that we know can bring a much greater quality of life to areas where it is put in place.” This statement is somewhat surprising because what may have been good for other cities does not mean to say that it is good for East Craigs or any other community in Edinburgh for that matter.
Each and every proposal is “stand alone”, supposed to be tailor made to fit the unique circumstances of individual areas, it is not a “one size fits all” concept and obviously should be not be treated as such. The residents of East Craigs know very well what effect the proposals will have on their area but will have little or no knowledge of what is suitable for downtown Broughty Ferry.
If consultation is to be taken seriously then it has to be entered into with an open mind. Paul Lawrence, the director of place, wrote in his Spaces for People report that the council would “collaborate” with local communities when determining traffic proposals for the city. That is not worth the paper it is written on if the council does not demonstrate that it is sincere and that proposals can and will be amended if that is what the consultation exercise dictates.
There is no doubt that other cities have already adopted similar proposals on traffic realignment with a measure of success but they are suited to each particular city and will obviously differ in their application.
The people of East Craigs will, I fear, not be persuaded by a “they don’t know what’s good for them” attitude and will be expected to be listened to on traffic changes in their area. This is one matter where local knowledge trumps a university graduate traffic expert sitting behind a council desk, who is entitled to express a view, but this view does not need to be heartily endorsed by councillors in defiance of local public sentiment.
Changes to a city-wide scheme to reflect legitimate local opinion does not mean that the overall policy is flawed, it just means that sometimes the council gets it wrong and is big enough to admit it.
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