Formal legal challenge lodged against Edinburgh council over controversial traffic scheme

EDINBURGH City Council has now received a formal legal challenge over its plan to use of emergency powers to bring in controversial road closures and other traffic measures in East Craigs.

By Ian Swanson
Friday, 16th October 2020, 7:00 am
David Hunter chairs the Get Edinburgh Moving campaign group  Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Councillor David Hunter on Craigs Road Corstorphine.

Craigs Road is one of the proposed roads to close for COVID measures
David Hunter chairs the Get Edinburgh Moving campaign group Photo: Lisa Ferguson Councillor David Hunter on Craigs Road Corstorphine. Craigs Road is one of the proposed roads to close for COVID measures

Lord Provost Frank Ross informed the full council meeting of the development as it debated the SNP/Labour administration’s move to delay a final decision pending the council getting its own legal advice.

But Tory councillor Jim Campbell claimed officials already had legal advice on the issue and asked why it had not been shared with councillors.

He said: “We already have the advice. The legal position is clear – you cannot introduce LTNs using the emergency arrangements.”

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Residents in the area raised thousands of pounds to pay for a legal opinion from an advocate which was submitted to the council earlier this month by campaign group Get Edinburgh Moving, claiming there was a prima facie case that the council’s LTN plans were unlawful because they went beyond the minimum necessary to deal with the impact of Covid.

But it is understood the formal legal challenge may have come from an individual in the community.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said revised proposals for the Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) produced following the outcry from residents had been a genuine attempt meet local concerns, particularly around the safety of key junctions.

She said following the legal opinion submitted by Get Edinburgh Moving the council felt it was necessary to get its own legal advice.

"If the advice indicates the need for it we will bring forward further changes that would be required to ensure they fit well within that legal framework.”

Tory transport spokeswoman Susan Webber said the extent of the opposition to the proposals meant in normal circumstances it would never be approved.

“Irrespective of legal opinion we should not progress this – we need to stop, go back to the drawing board and listen constructively to the community.”

Lib Dem group leader and Drum Brae/Glye councillor Robert Aldridge said the community wanted the proposals withdrawn and a proper consultation.

And he said: “Right from the outset people were questioning the legality of using temporary traffic regulation order. I’m shocked the convener was so insistent it was legally sound to proceed but now seems unsure. What was her evidence?

“There seemed to be a view the law didn’t apply unless you were challenged on it. Why on earth would you bring forward proposals without knowing whether it was legal to do so – I think that’s a dereliction of duty by the convener.”

Tory leader Iain Whyte said his group had proposed seeking legal advice when the issue came up at the transport committee but the plea was dismissed out of hand.

“Cllr Macinnes told us off for suggesting we have further discussion on this but she should be thanking us for continuing it to full council – otherwise she would have gone ahead and implemented it and been up against legal challenges for overstepping the powers of the council.”

Conservative colleague Phil Doggart questioned whether the legal uncertainty applied only to the East Craigs project or the whole Spaces for People programme. “It would be very helpful if the convener could confirm she does have legal opinion that the whole Spaces for People project has been in accordance with legislation.”David Hunter, chair of Get Edinburgh Moving, said his group had not yet taken any further step beyond sending the council a summary of the legal opinion it had obtained. He said he hoped the council would decide on the basis of legal advice to halt the scheme. "If they don’t then we will absolutely consider all options as a community group. If the council tried to convince itself this was lawful, that’s not where the matter ends for us.”

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