Edinburgh residents' group threatens legal action over council Spaces for People proposals

A community group has threatened the city council with legal action over controversial traffic measures due to be implemented next week.

Residents in some areas of Edinburgh are unhappy with the controversial Spaces for People measures.
Residents in some areas of Edinburgh are unhappy with the controversial Spaces for People measures.

South West Edinburgh in Motion (SWEM), a group representing all road users, including cyclists, in the south west of Edinburgh, claims the city council’s Spaces for People plans for Lanark Road, Inglis Green Road and Longstone Road are unlawful.

The group was formed in November 2020 to gauge the opinion of local residents and road users on the plans to implement cycle lanes under emergency Covid protocols.

The scheme is scheduled for implementation on Monday and involves introducing segregated cycle lanes and bus lanes on just over four miles of road.

Professor Derryck Reid

The council says it is committed to rolling out Spaces for People where necessary and the recent need to increase restrictions has demonstrated the importance of providing routes for people to make essential journeys or take daily exercise on foot, bike or wheelchair while physically distancing.

But residents say they have obtained an opinion from a QC that indicates that the council’s use of the risk of Covid-19 transmission to infer a likelihood of danger to the public that justifies a TTRO under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 is unlawful.

As a result SWEM have asked for the implementation to be halted until the community can be engaged on the new proposals.

If the council proceeds, the group has vowed to issue legal action and will make a formal complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

SWEM

The group claims the implementation of the lanes will minimise parking, deny safe access to residential homes and local businesses, as well as reducing the roads to single lanes which will cause major congestion.

In a letter to the transport convener Lesley Macinnes, Professor Derryck Reid, a keen cyclist and runner, has called on the council to work together to identify a scheme that keeps their community safe while also addressing the council’s objectives.

Derryck said: “Before Covid I was an active traveller and used to complete an eight-mile round trip to work by cycling or running. I do realise how fortunate I am to do this and accept that others may have a need to use a car as a necessity. These proposals will have a serious negative impact on residents and business in the area.

“If they want to bring in active travel infrastructure, then they have to go about it the right way. Long-term traffic changes need to be carried out with consultation and not by the exploitation of the community through subverting the democratic process.

“To date there has been no formal notification of residents, as when we carried out a professional survey through a market research company we found that only one third of residents had heard of the proposals prior to the council passing the motion. The council has done a terrible job in communicating what is going on and is being misleading by saying there is massive public support for the proposals.

“I am not fundamentally opposed to active travel infrastructure but you must bring the community with you to ensure that no one is left behind and that the changes are successful.”

SWEM says that an independent survey of over 1,000 local residents and businesses demonstrated that 89 percent of the surrounding community oppose or strongly oppose the plans.

They say that thousands will be affected by the loss of parking, including local businesses such as nurseries, dance schools, a mental health charity, and residents including the vulnerable, disabled and self-employed.

The group also claims there has been no Equality Impact Assessment carried out for vulnerable residents for this specific scheme.

John Brock, Currie Star Football Club chairman, has voiced his concerns regarding the safety of their players if the plans are implemented.

He said: “Our concern, first and foremost, is for the residents as cycle lanes on Lanark Road will directly impact where parents park to drop off their kids. We can ask them to use other means of transport but ultimately most will use their cars and create obstacles for residents.

“We are also extremely concerned about the safety aspect for our players, aged between seven and 12, as accessing the playing field will be made a lot more difficult. The club has signed petitions and fully supports the resident groups to try and have the TTRO revoked.”

Jason Rust, Tory councillor for Colinton/Fairmilehead, who recently requested a delay to the implementation, said: “In September last year I called for the council to listen to local communities and properly engage. The council needs to very carefully consider its position prior to forging ahead with this scheme.”

Cllr Macinnes said: “With a new lockdown in place as to combat a new, infectious strain of Covid it’s imperative that we do all we can to help people to get around the city safely while physically distancing.

“Measures proposed for Lanark Road, which is a busy and fast route out of the city, will make it significantly easier and safer for all those who use this part of our city transport network – many of whom don’t own cars – to walk, cycle or wheel for exercise or essential travel. Throughout the development of this scheme we have listened closely to feedback from local people and groups, and have made changes in response to help make sure this scheme benefits as many people as possible.”

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