I think it’s safe to say that we boast a world class city centre, in terms of architecture, culture, education and a raft of other qualities. Time and again I meet people struck by its beauty, compelled to visit or who never want to leave this place they call home.
But with this success comes added pressure. With an ever-growing population – a mixture of residents, commuters and visitors from far and wide – occupying a compact centre, we face a real challenge when it comes to moving people around the city.
I’m sure anyone waiting for a bus on the Bridges, navigating advertising boards on the Lawnmarket or cycling through the city centre would agree – we could do better.
Under Central Edinburgh Transformation, we want to bring issues like congestion, street clutter and poor air quality to the fore, working with residents, communities and businesses to rethink transport priorities, in turn unlocking the potential of our historic streets.
While we’re famous for our built heritage, it’s clear that some of our key places and spaces don’t work well enough. In line with the Management Plan for the World Heritage Site, our vision is to enhance the city’s public realm while supporting liveability within its centre. We must not forget that, while we’re proud of Edinburgh’s status as a thriving cultural hub, it’s also home to a great many residents, and their needs must be central to our vision.
By making it easier to walk and cycle around the city centre, improving the public realm while also increasing public transport efficiency, we want to create an environment that is sustainable, healthy and safe for our future generations. In this, the Year of Young People, it is more apparent than ever that we need to leave this legacy for the citizens of tomorrow.
Just as importantly, our aim is to make our city centre a better place to be, whether it’s for business, socialising or just strolling from east to west.
Though we ultimately hope to create a change in behaviour and a shift away from private cars, this is not a case of ‘driver vs pedestrian’ or ‘tourist vs resident’. We are absolutely committed to creating a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone. But we simply can’t ignore the fact that we need to make significant changes in order to protect our environment, ensure the safety of the public, provide access to people of all abilities and improve the quality of life here.
We are still at the very early stages of this project but as we move forward we will be engaging closely with citizens, transport operators and stakeholders, gathering information and seeking ideas to ensure that any progress takes full cognisance of the habits and requirements of the very people our city serves.
We very much intend to take a people and evidence-led approach to the design process.
Under the expert guidance of lead officer Daisy Narayanan, who brings to the role years of experience as deputy director at Sustrans Scotland, I am confident that the Central Edinburgh Transformation project will make great strides toward achieving our vision.
We can and will be a modern, accessible and environmental capital worthy of its status as one of Scotland’s most iconic and important locations.
Councillor Lesley Macinnes is Transport and Environment convener.