Edinburgh council has set wheels in motion for the city’s transformation – Lesley Macinnes

Our plan will have a significant positive impact on the Capital’s social fabric, quality of life and economy, says Lesley Macinness

Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 6:00 am
An artist's impression showing how Forrest Road could look as part of the City Centre Transformation project

Edinburgh is changing. We are facing a 15 per cent increase over two decades in the number of people who live here, our economy is growing and attracting more commuters into Edinburgh and tourist visitors are numerous.

We have all seen the increase in traffic, noise and stress in the city centre over the years. For many it is not a particularly pleasant place to visit, live or work in. Many people feel excluded. Solutions lie in reducing traffic and making the environment work better for everyone, encouraging easier, more pleasant walking and cycling and greater use of public transport.

This council administration has faced up to the challenges and formulated an ambitious, effective ten-year plan to deliver significant changes, based on extensive public consultation and working with groups representing business, heritage, disabilities and other special interests.

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Councillor Lesley Macinnes is transport and environment convener at Edinburgh City Council

Last week, my councillor colleagues voted to give the formal go-ahead for our finalised strategy for City Centre Transformation. It is an outline programme for long-term change, taking our strategy forward logically and sustainably. By focusing on people, place and movement, it will have a significant positive impact on our social fabric, quality of life and economy.

Our vision is clear, and with funding broadly in place for projects to be delivered over the plan’s first five years, the initial effects are in sight, including improved cycling and walking facilities along the Meadows to George Street route or relaxed, welcoming car-free streets in the Old Town.

There are still many conversations to come – it’s a working document. Each scheme to be implemented over the next decade will individually undergo further development, planning and dialogue with local communities, something which we’ve been open about. Suggestions by some that there is not yet enough detail to support the strategy ignores its very nature as a framework.

We’re under no illusion that this will involve some upheaval. We hope that residents, commuters and visitors will understand that it is necessary to build a city centre that truly delivers for the people of Edinburgh – delivers an accessible place, where everyone feels welcome, not pushed out by traffic, noise and stress. There will be plenty of opportunities for individuals and communities to carry on that conversation with us about the things that matter to them.

I’m confident that we have public support – 80 per cent of respondents to our recent consultation agreed with proposals to reprioritise our street space for pedestrians, cycling and enhancing public spaces.

Contrary to recent comments, our goal is to make it easier for everyone to access the city. We want to improve public transport links across Edinburgh, reducing congestion in the centre and speeding up journey times, and we’re working closely with service operators to achieve this. For those with mobility issues, we want to maintain dedicated disabled parking near to amenities, while widened footways will make it safer to get around. New segregated cycle lanes will open up cycling as a healthy, sustainable mode of transport for people of all abilities.

These changes will bring a more inclusive city centre, where we can feel the health benefits and economic growth is encouraged. Cities across the world, that have reduced or removed traffic in favour of walking, cycling and public transport, report that their city centres are revitalised.

Next month we’ll further our commitment to a sustainable future for Edinburgh, with next steps in introducing a Low Emissions Zone, tackling air pollution’s negative effects.

For now, I hope you will be re-assured that the wheels are in motion toward creating an active, resilient and inclusive city, reinforcing Edinburgh’s place as a major, modern Capital.

Councillor Lesley Macinnes is transport and environment convener at Edinburgh City Council