Roseburn campaigners in air pollution plea at public hearing into Edinburgh Council's £11.5m cycle proposals

Campaigners and traders have appealed to a Scottish Government reporter to listen to their concerns over air pollution and public safety during a public hearing into the city council's flagship plans for a dedicated cycle path through the west of the city centre.

Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 7:05 am

Campaigners have called for a proposed £11.5m cycle route to be rerouted on the other side of a main road into the Capital over air pollution concerns.

A public hearing was held this week into Edinburgh City Council’s city centre west to east link (CCWEL) – which will provide a segregated cycle route from York Place to Roseburn in three phases. The hearing, chaired by a Scottish Government reporter, is investigating objections to traffic regulation orders and re-determination of land for the route between Roseburn and Haymarket.

Protesters from the Roseburn Vision group and local traders, have called on the Scottish Government to force the council to shift the route to the other side of Roseburn Terrace due to “insane” plans they claim will hamper air pollution. The council denies these claims and say its studies show toxic levels will reduce over the coming years.

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The council's cycle route proposals for Roseburn, Picture: Edinburgh Council
The council's cycle route proposals for Roseburn, Picture: Edinburgh Council

Campaigner Peter Gregson proposed a “far more cost effective,

elegant and environmentally friendly alternative” route for the path – but council officials told the hearing it would be an “extremely dangerous route to send cyclists down”.

Mr Gregson also claimed that council officials had “leaned on” Lothian Buses to withdraw a representation – denied by council officers who said they “don’t know what Mr Gregson is talking about”.

This led to Scottish Government reporter, Mike Croft, criticising Mr Gregson’s tone.

Mr Croft said: “It isn’t helpful, Mr Gregson, to make general accusations against the council about duplicitous behaviour.”

Campaigners have claimed that air pollution could rise by up to 20 per cent – due to parking being removed that they say currently acts as a “buffer” between buildings on Roseburn Terrace and vehicles.

The council said that vehicle journeys along Roseburn Terrace have reduced from 30,000 in 2001 to 22,000 in 2018 while NO2 levels have reduced from 46 mg per m3 to 27 mg per m3 in 2018.

Tom Stenhouse, speaking on behalf of the authority, said there has been a “long-term trend of air quality improvement in this part of the city” and pointed out that modelling shows that “concentrations are going to fall”.

Mr Stenhouse added that the council’s air quality measurements were taken over a five hour period around peak times – but campaigners have called for hourly measurements.

He said: “The models we have used are validated and widely used.

“This is the best approach we could possibly do for this type of scheme”

Campaigners have recruited former SEPA employee, John Lamb, to speak about their air quality concerns . He told the hearing that the cycle route was essentially on the wrong side of Roseburn Terrace – due to higher levels of air pollution on one side than the other, a claim the council refutes.

Mr Lamb said: “It moves the traffic into the area with the higher pollution – it’s insane. I’m afraid I don’t accept the findings of this model.”

But Mr Croft, who will make recommendations to ministers and the council following the hearing, said: “You are concerned traffic will be brought nearer to buildings on the south side of Roseburn Terrace. We have loading facilities on the south side of Roseburn Terrace that will be there in the future.

“Obviously, moving traffic is kept away, albeit for a shorter length. In future, the loading and unloading vehicles can be there at peak times, whereas they cannot legitimately be there at the moment.”

Campaigners also raised safety concerns for both pedestrians and cyclists using the new infrastructure – with Mr Gregson pointing to an “accident blackspot” on Roseburn Terrace, close to the Murrayfield Bar and Kitchen.

But council officials said “there have been four accidents over a 10-year period” at the location, according to police data.

Mr Gregson concluded by saying that campaigners “do not think this is a good project” – while the council said they had taken a “professional approach to assessing all the options”.

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