Anger over ‘hopeless’ pavement designs along Edinburgh's Leith Walk tram lines

Campaigners have slammed Edinburgh City Council’s ‘hopeless’ designs for pavements along the tram lines on Leith Walk – after it emerged the paths are so narrow they don’t meet the council’s own minimum standards.

Monday, 13th September 2021, 10:35 pm

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Living Streets Edinburgh, the ‘local volunteer arm’ of the national walking charity Living Streets, say that over 250m of footway, in eleven different sections, will be below the council’s minimum guidelines, which it says other developers must adhere to.

In one location, just north of Pilrig Street junction, the pavements will be as little as 1.8m wide – despite council planners recommending a minimum pavement width of two metres. The difference means that some pavement users find it hard to navigate their way safely.

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The pavement design has come under fire

However, the council’s guidance – the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance document – does allow deviation from these norms in conservation areas and to negotiate around mature trees.

David Hunter, convenor of Living Streets Edinburgh, said: “We’re incredibly disappointed to learn of the hopeless final design for many sections of Leith Walk’s pavements.

“These pavements should be at least 3 metres wide, with a stipulated minimum of 2.5 metres.

Campaigners say the pavements are too narrow

“As the main link between Edinburgh and Leith, and an important local street in its own right, Leith Walk needs quality pedestrian space.

“We are big supporters of the tram project, and welcome the benefits it will bring to people walking in other places.

“But having engaged with the tram team regularly over the past two years, it’s a bombshell to hear – right at the point of construction – just how poor the street will be for pedestrians.

“This is frankly unacceptable and at odds with the repeated claims that “walking and wheeling” are top of the ‘Sustainable Travel Hierarchy’, both in Edinburgh and in Scotland as a whole.

“Even at this, the eleventh hour, we’re calling on the council to revisit the plans to give pedestrians the space they need.”

In response to the criticism, Edinburgh City Council in its defencepointed out that the Street Design Guidance is a guide, rather than a law – and that Leith Walk is an established street that is also in a conservation area.

Transport committee vice convenor Karen Doran, Labour councillor for the City Centre ward, said: “Supporting safe and accessible walking and wheeling remains a priority for us and, as David Hunter states, the Trams to Newhaven project will help even more people to choose travel by foot or wheel.

“Our designs, which have been completed in close consultation with the community and stakeholders, including Living Streets, accommodate a living, breathing and historic high street, where buses and trams co-exist with pedestrians, cyclists, buses and those servicing businesses and living there.

“The Edinburgh Street Design Guidance, which helps to make sure our streets are well designed and accessible, recommends a minimum footpath width of 2m, though makes exceptions to accommodate various elements of the streetscape, and finite space in existing streets.

“We’ve endeavoured to adhere to this guidance, while ensuring quality public transport and cycling links along the length of the route.”

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