Edinburgh council accused of 'not listening' to disabled drivers over parking at Botanic Garden

An MSP has accused the city council of failing to listen to disabled people over controversial road schemes.

By Ian Swanson
Thursday, 4th November 2021, 4:55 am

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Lothian Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour, who himself has a disability, spoke out after one disabled driver highlighted the withdrawal of blue-badge parking spaces outside the Royal Botanic Garden, which means people now have to struggle with crutches or wheelchairs as they get out of their cars onto a main road with speeding traffic.

The council narrowed the road near the Botanics’ west gate on Arboretum Place as part of the Spaces for People scheme and says the disabled parking spaces were removed from the large semi-circle at the garden entrance to allow socially-distanced queuing.

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Arboretum Place and the semi-circle, now standing empty, where blue-badge drivers used to park Image: Google Streetview

But disabled motorist Hugh Munro, 71, claims he was nearly knocked down along with a member of the Botanics staff as he transferred from his car to the mobility scooter she had brought him. And he is calling for the blue-badge parking in the semi-circle to be restored.

Mr Balfour has taken up Mr Munro’s cause and wrote to the council. He said: "This is another of these Spaces for People schemes where no-one has thought about how you actually use it in practice without causing physical danger to people with disability.

"They've taken away these spaces and now people have to open their door and get out into the main road, which if you've got a wheelchair or a scooter is very dangerous.

"It's the council not thinking about those who have disability and just pushing ahead without listening to people and not being willing to react.

"I would like to see the spaces restored so the Botanics can have safe access for those with disability and the council start listening to the disability community rather than just pushing ahead with their own dogma."

The council has longer-term plans to create permanent pedestrian areas in the semi-circle outside the Botanics and in the equivalent semi-circle across the road at the entrance to Inverleith Park, as well as narrowing the road and providing a crossing between the two.

A survey claimed strong support for the proposals but also noted concern about the loss of disabled parking.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes defended the Spaces for People measures but insisted the council was listening and said adjustments to the scheme were being considered.

She said: “We introduced these measures during the pandemic to provide a safer crossing for the many people walking and wheeling in this busy area. People told us about a lack of a safe space to cross during our Commonplace consultation last year, and these changes, which received support from local councillors, respond to these kinds of issues.

“Of course we do recognise the concerns raised here and we are listening. As we work towards extending the scheme on a trial basis, we’re developing revisions to the road layout to improve safety for all road users, including more space for passengers exiting cars and speed reduction measures."

Possible adjustments include widening the hatched buffer areas between the traffic lane and the on-street disabled parking spaces, reinstating 20mph roundels and adding extra road markings to narrow the lanes and slow traffic.

Councillor Macinnes added: “We’ll also be continuing to monitor the scheme to make sure it’s working for everyone, and to minimise impact on disabled drivers and passengers.”

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