Council is set to back down on controversial Edinburgh neighbourhood low-traffic scheme
The council considered the proposals for a ‘low-traffic neighbourhood’ (LTN) in October, which would include road closures on Craigs Crescent, Craigs Avenue, North Gyle Road, and Craigs Gardens, as well as a partial closure on North Gyle Terrace.
The scheme would also introduce a bus gate on Craigs Road, and traffic calming measures throughout the neighbourhood.
However, the council has been accused of overstepping the mark by using emergency coronavirus powers to implement the changes without consultation.
Local activists raised thousands of pounds to obtain a formal opinion from an advocate on the legality of the LTN scheme, which was submitted to the committee on October 1.
The opinion, commissioned by the Get Edinburgh Moving campaign group, argued the proposals – funded under the Spaces for People programme – go beyond the scope of what can be done under the emergency powers to introduce traffic measures to make physical distancing easier for pedestrians and cyclists.
It said introducing the planned LTN in East Craigs was materially different from the emergency measures implemented elsewhere.
Now, councillors are being asked to decide whether to push ahead with the full scheme, and risk legal consequences, or to approve a scheme with a smaller scope.
A report, set to before councillors at a meeting of the transport and environment committee on Thursday November 12, also gives councillors the option of scrapping the proposals.
It reads: “Following the provision of legal advice in respect of the proposals to introduce a LTN in East Craigs using a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO), officers have carefully considered the options available to the council.
“The council could acknowledge the legal risks in proceeding with the scheme as is, but proceed as set out in the report to Transport and Environment Committee on 1 October 2020; reduce any interventions using a TTRO to measures around Craigmount High School and Drum Brae North to improve conditions for walking and cycling; or decide not to proceed with any changes.”
The report further details the options available to councillors. Option one would be to proceed with the full East Craigs LTN scheme, as agreed in October, and option four would see the scheme scrapped entirely.
However, ‘option 2A’, as outlined in the report, reads: “Officers have developed an alternative option to increase safety around Craigmount High School, as this location sees large numbers of people coming together at the start and end of the school day.
“This would involve measures on Craigs Road including creating more space for pedestrians near the school, introducing a bus gate at the start and end of the school day and removing a guardrail close to the school and a local path which exits onto Craigs Road.”
A further proposal, ‘option 2B’, would only “introduce measures to address the footway pinch points around Craigmount High School and to introduce the segregated cycleway on Drum Brae North to create sufficient space for physical distancing around the school and for exercise.”
At a press conference announcing the changes, Paul Lawrence, Edinburgh City Council’s director of place, said that the LTN is not off the table, and that officers will be trying to implement the full scheme in the future.
He said: “The bottom line with this is that we are more than aware of significant local concern, and particularly, on a technical level, we are concerned and aware that people have felt as if we’ve been trying to introduce a scheme which we were going to do, as it were, before the pandemic, under cover of the pandemic.
“We’re also aware that we are under the direct threat of legal challenge if we move forward.
“As a response to that, looking at our options and looking at our risks, we’re kind of taking a two-pronged approach.
“The first is to recommend that we do not proceed with the whole of the LTN proposal using these temporary powers.
“Instead, we bring forward what we would call a normal Spaces for People scheme, which focuses on strong measures for safe walking and cycling, particularly on Craigs Road and the area outside of Craigmount School, with some additional measures thrown in.
“We’re clearly saying that officers do not recommend going ahead with the full LTN under temporary powers, instead we bring forward a Spaces for People which is bespoke to the particular issues we see in that area.
“However, we do feel that a wider low-traffic neighbourhood is the right transport and mobility concept given where it sits, given its strategic linkages, and there was piece of work we were doing called the West Edinburgh Link, that looked at making sure people in the west of the city had better, more sustainable transport options.
“So we still think it’s the right solution, so in due course we’ll come back with the LTN using what we call ‘experimental traffic orders’.
“The measures we’re using for Spaces for People are using temporary powers, which are in the here and now, we believe that immediate powers need to be taken.
“An experimental traffic order is one where you try something, engage with the public, move forward on an experimental scheme, you implement it, you learn the lessons, then you decide what to do on a permanent basis.
“So we will be bringing forward the LTN for East Craigs, but under experimental powers.
“That will follow the more temporary measures going before the committee next week.”
Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Reporting Service