Controversial plans for Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Edinburgh delayed

REVISED plans for Scotland’s first Low Traffic Neighbourhood in East Craigs have been delayed after opposition councillors referred them to full council for a final decision.

By Ian Swanson
Friday, 2nd October 2020, 7:00 am
Residents have suggested improvements for the scheme   Photo: Lisa Ferguson
Residents have suggested improvements for the scheme Photo: Lisa Ferguson

The controversial proposals for road closures and other restrictions were passed by the council’s transport committee by seven votes to four despite a plea by the ward councillors for a consultation with residents and last-minute questions about the legality of implementing the scheme under emergency powers.

But the Conservative and Lib Dem members of the committee exercised their right to refer the issue to the council meeting on October 15.

Lib Dem councillor Robert Aldridge, speaking on behalf of all three Drum Brae/Gyle councillors, told the committee people who regularly walked and cycled in the area pleaded for the revised proposals to be withdrawn.

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And he said residents had put forward constructive, well-considered suggestions for improvements. “If the Spaces for People team put in the effort to proper consultation with the community we could arrive at a win-win resolution to this. There is a very, very strong desire to participate and find solutions in the local community.

"It would be bizarre to implement a very rushed new set of proposals without considering the implications when there is a genuine willingness from everyone to get involved and get the right solution.”

He noted no changes had been proposed for the “dangerous” junction of Craigs Road with Drum Brae South. He said there had been a serious accident there a fortnight ago which had led to enormous congestion and the proposals in the LTN scheme would put greater pressure on the junction.

Tory transport spokesman Susan Webber said despite what the council said, residents doubted the scheme would be temporary and expected moves to make it permanent.

She said 168 people had contacted her, unhappy with the plans; and only 12 in favour. “And 2,650 residents have signed a petition demanding this be halted and for consultation to take place.”

Lib Dem transport spokesman Kevin Lang attacked the “rushed, autocratic, initially dismissive and at times condescending manner” in which residents had been treated and the plans progressed.

He said: "The overwhelming message from the people in this area has been simple: Pause and let us have our say.”

But Green councillor Gavin Corbett said: “What is mooted is very similar to what is already in place in dozens of residential areas and they are warmly welcomed by people in those areas. The only difference now is we have applied the label Low Traffic Neighbourhood. The concept is an old one.”

All the evidence was that the measures would bring benefits and once implemented they quickly became the new norm.

And he said he hoped there would be “many more” LTNs in the future.

A legal opinion obtained by the Get Edinburgh Moving campaign group and submitted to the committee claimed the introduction of an LTN as an emergency measure was materially different from the emergency measures introduced elsewhere. It added: “It is difficult to escape the conclusion that CEC has used the pandemic as a pretext to introduce a change that it might otherwise have found difficult to implement.” And it argued there was a prima facie case that the decision was unlawful.

An official told the committee that the council’s legal department was reviewing the matter and considering whether external legal advice was necessary.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said the revised scheme was a genuine attempt to meet the concerns of the community. “There is an impetus to get measures on the ground but there is a clear commitment to monitoring and changing as required. We will be keeping a watching brief on this project and will be modifying it as necessary."

And on the scheme’s legality, she said: “We will be taking that seriously and responding to it in due course.”

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