Complaint to standards watchdog over controversial vote by Edinburgh's transport committee to close road in Portobello

A complaint has been made to the standards watchdog over a controversial vote by city councillors to close a road in Portobello.

Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 4:55 am

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The transport committee last week gave the go-ahead for the experimental closure of Brunstane Road because of long-standing problems with congestion on the narrow road, leading to anti-social behaviour by drivers and damage to residents' cars.

But two local groups opposed to the move were told the night before the committee they could not have deputations to the meeting because approving the experimental traffic regulation order was a quasi-judicial process.The legal advice which led to the refusal of deputations is understood also to have said that councillors who had previously expressed an opinion on the matter should not take part in the debate and vote.

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Brunstane Road Image: Google Streetview

And now a resident, who does not want to be named, has complained to the commissioner for ethical standards in public life that councillors Maureen Child and Karen Doran, who both live in the area, should have withdrawn from the committee for that item.

The issue was raised at the meeting by Tory group leader Iain Whyte, but convener Lesley Macinnes said since the two councillors had declared their interests that was enough.

The complainer said the committee had acted unfairly. “Only part of the legal opinion which they relied on to refuse deputations was applied – the other part of it asking councillors who had previously expressed support or otherwise for the proposal to recuse themselves from the decision-making wasn't even mentioned.”

And the complaint says: “In contributing to the debate, as a local member, Councillor Child emphasised her support over nearly 30 years for closing Brunstane Road. Councillor Doran, having it would seem indicated to officers her support for closure, seconded the motion to progress the ETRO and both voted for the motion.”

For too long, planning decisions have led to towns and cities full of polluting traffic jams (Picture: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

The consultation on the proposal found 87 per cent of residents on Brunstane Road supported the closure, citing damage to cars and aggressive anti-social behaviour towards residents, while 92 per cent of those living on other streets in the area were against it, saying it would mean more heavy goods vehicles and other traffic in their roads.

Committee convener Lesley Macinnes said the proposal had caused some “consternation” locally but the situation for Brunstane Road residents was “almost unbearable”.

But Councillor Whyte claimed it was “heavy-handed” to try to solve the problem by inconveniencing the whole of Portobello and pointed out there were over 200 objections.

Councillor Child said she was “totally satisfied” she had behaved correctly and claimed the complaint was “vexatious”.

She said although she voted for the Brunstane Road closure, it would disadvantage her because she lived elsewhere in the area.

And she denied she had previously expressed an opinion on the proposal.

“I very carefully didn't state a view on the report in advance of the committee. I was getting emails from both sides of the argument but I didn't respond to them and have only started to respond to them this week.”

Councillor Karen Doran said she did not believe she had done anything wrong and pointed out she too would be adversely affected by the decision.

“My street is probably going to be one of the worst affected by this closure, but the good of the people is more important than me as an individual.

“I genuinely believe we are doing the right thing for the people who live there – and for those in the surrounding areas, we’ve said throughout this it will be monitored, it is an experiment.”

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