Edinburgh council chiefs accused of trying to 'sneak through' car ban on Mound

Crisis committee to discuss long-term traffic plans

Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 6:00 am
Only buses, taxis and cycles would be allowed to use Bank Street
Only buses, taxis and cycles would be allowed to use Bank Street

COUNCIL chiefs have been accused of trying to “sneak through” an effective ban on cars from The Mound by putting the proposals to a small panel of councillors making urgent decisions during the coronavirus crisis.

Detailed plans for traffic changes in the city centre would see Bank Street - the stretch of road between The Mound and the Royal Mile - restricted to buses, taxis and cycles. Although cars could still travel in both directions on The Mound between Princes Street and Market Street, it would no longer be a north-south through route.

Market Street would also be closed to through car traffic, with only buses and taxis allowed, as well as cars dropping off people at Waverley station.

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The moves are part of the council’s £16 million Meadows to George Street project, which would also include pedestrianisation of Forrest Road and restricting Candlemaker Row to local bus services and business loading.

Council meetings have been suspended due to the coronavirus crisis, but the plans are due to be discussed via Skype today at the leadership advisory panel, which is made up of the leaders of the five main party groups on the council.

Tory group leader Iain Whyte said such major, long-term proposals needed proper scrutiny and should not be brought to the panel during the Covid-19 crisis.

He said: “This should be coming to a proper committee to discuss. The leadership advisory panel is meant for taking urgent decisions, not big long-term strategic decisions.

“They are trying to sneak this under the radar here by dramatically changing the city centre layout when the news agenda is fully on other things. You would almost think they were playing fast and loose with council rules to get this through.”

The proposals for The Mound include segregated cycleways and the report to the panel says the narrow road width of Bank Street at the corner by the High Court means there will have to be an “alternating one-way shuttle operation” for other traffic.

The council says the project will also create wider footways on George IV Bridge, as well as new public spaces outside the Bedlam Theatre and Greyfriars Bobby, and a new publicly accessible greenspace at Mound Place.

Council leader Adam McVey said: “These projects are working to externally set funding deadlines and if we’re to take these projects forward we need to take cognisance of that.

“Our teams are working from home, in line with Government advice, to deliver project funding for improvements to our city. There has been no instruction to pause work where we still have the capacity to deliver it and staff aren’t needed to deal with the direct Covid-19 crisis.

“This has been explained to the Tories so it’s a pity they have chosen still to attack these projects.”