Edinburgh councillors re-run vote on controversial road closure after legal advice that original vote could be open to legal challenge
Councillors have confirmed a controversial decision to close Brunstane Road in Portobello after being forced to hold a special meeting because two members who took part in the original vote should not have done.
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Labour’s Maureen Child and Karen Doran, who live in the area, declared their interest at the last meeting of the transport committee but were still allowed to cast their votes.
A member of the public lodged a complaint with the standards commissioner and then internal legal advice recommended the decision could be open to legal challenge and therefore the vote should be re-run.
At the special meeting on Thursday afternoon, councillors Child and Doran were replaced by fellow Labour councillors Ian Perry and Ricky Henderson and the result of the vote was the same as before – seven for the closure and four against.
Tory transport spokesman Graham Hutchison said it was unfortunate and embarrassing for the council to have to re-run the vote, especially since the concerns about councillors with an interest taking part had been raised at the original meeting.
And he said there was no need for a specially-called meeting. “This could easily have waited until the next full meeting of the committee.”
Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang criticised the “shambolic procedure” and urged Councillor Macinnes to offer an apology on behalf of the committee and the council to all the people in the community. “None of us should be satisfied with the process that has brought us to this point,” he said.
Residents in Brunstane Road have long complained about the amount of traffic on their narrow road, the problem of cars being damaged and aggressive anti-social behaviour from drivers. But people in nearby streets argue the closure will just mean they suffer the traffic instead.
A consultation found 87 per cent of residents on Brunstane Road supported a closure, while 92 per cent of those living in the wider area were against it.
The Tories called for re-examination of alternative measures such as parking controls and/or an HGV ban.
Tory group leader Iain Whyte pointed out there had been 211 objections to the proposal. He said: “This is simply moving the problem from one set of people’s doorsteps to another and actually onto what are normally considered safer routes to school ad areas where people are encouraged to walk or cycle.”
But transport convener Lesley Macinnes defended the closure, which will be brought in by an experimental traffic regulation order.
She said: “The solution we are putting forward is going to be monitored, assessed, understood and, if required, changed – but we can’t know that until we have put it into place.”
And she said Cllr Lang was right that the entire committee owed an apology to the community.
But she pointed out she had asked for advice at the last meeting on the issue of whether the two Labour councillors should take part in the vote. “The advice that was forthcoming was not appropriate, it wasn’t correct. But when that emerged immediately after the meeting I took immediate action to solve this problem.”
She claimed the opposition criticism was “a desperate and slightly embittered attempt to pour scorn on the administration yet again”.