The people of East Craigs 'deserve an apology' says opponent as controversial traffic scheme is rubber-stamped

Plans for a ‘low traffic neighbourhood’ in the East Craigs district of Edinburgh have been approved by councillors amidst an emotional, and at times personal, debate.

By Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 19th November 2020, 4:45 pm
Controversy: Transport and Environment Convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes
Controversy: Transport and Environment Convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes

At a meeting of Edinburgh City Council today, members approved the implementation of the capital’s first low traffic neighbourhood (LTN), which will 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 will also introduce a bus gate on Craigs Road, and traffic calming measures throughout the neighbourhood.

During a sometimes tense and combative debate, opposition amendments to the SNP/Labour coalition’s plans were defeated.

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Apology call: Councillor Kevin Lang

Much of the contention centred on comments made about the convener of the council’s transport committee, Liberton and Gilmerton SNP councillor Lesley Macinnes.

The scheme was set to be introduced using emergency coronavirus powers, which allow the council to implement the scheme and then gather feedback from residents, as opposed to conducting a public consultation beforehand.

This has led to accusations that the council has acted in an undemocratic fashion.

However, at a transport committee meeting, held last week, councillor Macinnes gave a verbal reassurance that consultation will be carried out prior to any implementation of the LTN.

Speaking at the full council debate, councillor Macinnes confirmed this, but added a scheme at Craigmount High School would be enacted immediately.

Councillor Macinnes said: “The fact is we are going to build in a degree of full public consultation, before shifting to the longer term piece that was always being discussed for this part of the world.

“Last week I gave a very clear indication that we’re going to go for full public consultation on longer term proposals, but that in the meantime the short terms initiative will centre around Craigmount High School, as a clear reflection of local concerns and desires.”

Almond councillor Kevin Lang, Liberal Democrats, said: “There were three very important words missing from councillor Macinnes’ contribution, and it was these: ‘I am sorry’.

“Because if ever there was a community that was deserving of an apology from the transport convener, it is the people of East Craigs.

“They deserve an apology because of the shoddy way I believe they have been treated.

“It has been 135 days since the initial notification of the East Craigs LTN came out, and here’s the crazy thing - if the administration had just listened to that initial feedback in the summer there could have been a public consultation, and the transport committee could have that.”

Fellow Lib Dem councillor Robert Albridge, who represents Drum Brae and Gyle, added: “If anybody was listening to the transport committee last week, they would have heard the toe-curlingly, excruciatingly embarrassing explanation by the convener of her constant, reluctant climb down after climb down being designated in some way as a constructive move towards change.

“She has been forced, kicking and screaming, to a position which she did not want to do, she was determined from the start, and she hectored, she lectured and she matrinised people at the public meeting in the park and she’s carried on today matrinising us today, saying we misunderstood the proposals.

“At long last, she has listened to what has been said and has climbed right down to what the residents originally wanted, which was consultation before any significant proposal comes in.

“This has been an absolute disgrace in the way it has been handled, and I think the people of East Craigs are due an apology for this, it has been absolutely hopeless.”

Council leader Adam McVey, who represents Leith for the SNP, scolded his fellow councillors for using an ‘aggressive approach’: “Unfortunately the last few contributions weren’t particularly constructive in any sort of sense and I found them quite overly personalised.

“You’re never sure what side of the fence the Liberal Democrats are sitting on, usually they are sitting bang on it, but we heard in that last contribution that the community have exactly what they need now and there’s no change necessary, and we also heard everyone is willing to work for change and the local members are not obstinate to that.

“I think the Liberal Democrats are tightwalking even by their standards.

“While I do appreciate some of what opposition councillors have said, it has not been helped by the approach of some members of the opposition, who have been overly personal, far too aggressive and lacking any form of constructive engagement.”

Forth councillor Eleanor Bird, SNP, added: “I would say that comments that have already been made in this debate have been deeply regrettable, and gendered actually, which is a real concern and very, very personal - I think it brings shame on all of us.”

A clearly upset councillor Macinnes finished up the debate, saying: “The community has the original proposal completely misrepresented to them. I’ve had people telling me ‘I won’t be able to get out of my house for the winter’ - that is confusion about the nature of an LTN which does not prevent access to anybody’s homes, it just takes a bit longer to go round.

“That I lay firmly at the foot of parliamentarians and elected members that sit in that area, who did not bother to explain to the community the true nature of the proposals because they saw a political opportunity.

“I will not resort to personal comments in the way I witnessed in the debate today, and I witnessed in the stirring up of community comments.

“Some of the comments that have landed on my desk have been frankly, and personally insulting.

“They say nothing of my motivation in attempting to achieve something good for this city and I think that some of the members of this chamber, it behoves them to reconsider some of things they are saying in the community and they are saying in this context.”

The council voted to approve the paper, which will implement a scheme around Craigmount High School and implement the East Craig LTN following consultation, by 36 votes to 19.

Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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