3000 take part in tram extension consultation

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COUNCIL chiefs have drawn up a hit-list of hot topics raised by members of the public on the proposed extension of the Capital’s tramline down Leith Walk and on to Newhaven.

They will look at concerns over arrangements for businesses to continue operating during the construction work, financial help for traders and how it will affect residents and commuters.

A photo illustration of a tram on Constitution street.

A photo illustration of a tram on Constitution street.

Other issues highlighted during the six-week consultation which closed at the weekend included the need for more pedestrian crossings and signal-controlled junctions on Leith Walk, the location of the Balfour Street tram stop and parking and loading on Constitution Street.

The council said more than 3000 people had taken part in the consultation, attending information events, sending in comments by e-mail or completing the consultation online.

Councillors have agreed in principle to the three-mile extension from York Place to Newhaven and a final decision on whether to go ahead is due to be taken in the autumn.

Opponents noted the consultation asked for views on managing traffic during the construction period, support for businesses and the road layout but did not ask people whether they supported the extension.

Tory transport spokesman Nick Cook claimed the consultation appeared “little more than a superficial publicity exercise”.

He said: “It fails to actually ask residents if they are ‘for’ or ‘against’ the project itself.”

He said an independent consultation commissioned by the council had found 91 per cent of people in Leith were happy with the current public transport and only 42 per cent believed the tram would benefit local business. “It is little wonder the they are reluctant to ask the question.”

Independent councillor Lewis Ritchie, who has come out against the extension, said the decision had effectively been made already. “There is a very strong will within the administration to force these plans through.”

Green transport spokesman Chas Booth said extending the tram to Newhaven was “a fantastic opportunity” to create more people-friendly streets in the area “if we get the designs right”. “Greens want to see very significant improvements to the detailed designs for the extension which put pedestrians first, cyclists second and tram and bus users third. Many of the responses to the council’s consultation have made exactly this point, and we agree with them.”

The council said the consultation had highlighted a “misconception” that the project would divert resources from other council services when the plan is for all borrowing costs to be met from an extraordinary dividend from Lothian Buses and future tram revenues.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “A huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to give us their feedback. The comments will help us make changes to the plans before we consult again towards the end of the summer.”

She said in the same survey quoted by Cllr Cook 59 per cent agreed taking trams to Newhaven would benefit Leith.