Major Edinburgh Council election battleground will be the future of cars and parking in the city – John McLellan

Like the potholes on so many of our roads, it seems that Edinburgh Council can’t resist digging deeper every time it finds itself in one.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 4:55 am
Controlled parking zones could be a major issue at next year's Edinburgh Council election (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

It’s almost as if the SNP-Labour coalition revels in anti-politics in which the aim of its policies is to distance itself from as far from public opinion as possible, as if unpopularity is somehow a badge of virtue which enables them to deride those who stand up for local people as populists.

Some have suggested that, no matter what happens in the elections next year, the hard-left cabal and the SNP’s new Green Party chums will continue to rule the roost. So should the rest of us just pack up and leave thousands of local people, who would rather their views weren’t ignored, to their fate?

Take the decision on the expansion of controlled parking zones (CPZs). A report to last week’s transport committee, being debated again today, showed a clear majority of people who responded to the consultations did not see the need for new restrictions and the introduction of resident’s permits in their neighbourhoods. Resistance was strongest in the Willowbrae area of my ward, with only 19 residents submitting positive comments compared to 269 against.

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The coalition’s response to this was not to acknowledge the depth of feeling and agree to call a halt until such times as demand was proven, but to push back the next phase of the roll-out to autumn 2022 which is, surprise surprise, after the election.

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CPZs are not unwelcome in principle and in nearby Abbeyhill one will be introduced next year because of repeated pre-pandemic complaints about commuter parking. Displacement into Meadowbank was not an unreasonable pre-pandemic prediction, but work patterns are changing so much that the time between the new Abbeyhill restrictions and the new deadline is not sufficient to understand whether expanding restrictions is necessary.

Residents are therefore being asked to choose between potential inconvenience from unquantified commuter displacement and paying for the privilege of guaranteed inconvenience from fewer parking spaces outside their homes.

CPZs are not profit-making and not a solution for a problem residents are experiencing, but the council administration’s determination to disincentivise car ownership. This is not a biased interpretation, but a new priority spelt out quite clearly in last week’s report.

While the parking review might have started out as a means to deal with residents’ concerns, its primary aim is now “to support and deliver upon the policies within the city mobility plan”, which involves “reducing the level of on-street parking in areas well served by public transport”.

This is reflected in the view of local SNP MSP Ash Denham, who asked for a rethink until such times as local bus services had been improved, not because her council colleagues were imposing a fee for a scheme which has not yet proven necessary.

By this argument there are few places inside the City Bypass which should not be subject to a CPZ, which then effectively becomes a local car tax.

Yes, there will be spaces, just not as many as before, so residents will be expected to pay more for a poorer amenity because the council would rather you didn’t have a car, whether electric or not.

Far from kicking the parking can past the election, it’s a battleground.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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