Edinburgh's Holyrood Park: Plans to ban through traffic 'could mean increased congestion and more pollution'
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Plans to ban traffic from driving through Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park could increase congestion and cause more pollution, a motoring expert has warned.
Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which manages the park, has launched a consultation on its strategic plan for the Capital's biggest natural attraction, which includes removing through traffic to make it a better and safer place for walking and cycling.
The “vision statement” for the park over the next decade says: “Vehicular traffic will largely cease, and active travel will become the primary mode of transport across the park; reflecting wider societal trends away from a car dominated urban environment.”
And later the strategic plan elaborates: “Through traffic is a historic consequence of the Victorian remodelling of the park. Current levels of vehicle traffic create severance and pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle conflict leading to accidents and a perception of risk. There is a critical issue with the main visitor route along Horse Wynd from the end of the Royal Mile, past parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse and into the park.
“Steps will be implemented to very substantially reduce, or remove all, vehicular through traffic from the park to significantly reduce conflict between users and vehicles and improve the quality of user experience in the park.”
But Neil Greig, the Scotland-based policy and research director of motoring group IAM RoadSmart, warned the move could have unintended consequences in other roads around the area and further afield. He said: “Closing any roads in busy Edinburgh is going to have an impact. There is no doubt the park is a unique asset for Edinburgh, but if they close the road through the park they have to look at what that will mean.”
He said it was essential to maintain access to the car parks so people who needed to use a car would still be able to enjoy the park. And he called on the council to work with HES to work out what the impact of the traffic ban would be.
“My worry is the if they don’t take into account what’s happening outside the park then you end up with more congestion. And if you start adding to congestion, that holds up buses and causes more pollution and so on. Because this is such an important part of the road network in Edinburgh they need to look wider than just the park limits.”
On Saturdays and Sundays, all roads in the park are already closed to traffic during the day, although access is allowed to the car parks near the palace, at Meadowbank and at Duddingston. And the High Road, round past Dunsapie Loch, along with the car park there, is only open to vehicles from Tuesday to Thursday, 9.30am to 3pm.
Last year, Lothian Green MSP Lorna Slater, who is also minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, argued in the Evening News for a car-free Holyrood Park. She spoke of enjoying the park better when traffic was banned during Covid. She wrote: “It is a special place and plays a very unique role in our city, providing a big calming oasis of peace, tranquility and nature in an otherwise bustling city centre. Having car-free roads has made people feel safer, more active and ready to explore the outdoors.”
But Tory transport spokeswoman Marie-Clair Munro said HES had to recognise that the routes through Holyrood Park were a vital part of Edinburgh's wider road network. “Without routes through Holyrood many journeys will become hugely longer on already heavily congested roads. Most of east Edinburgh residents will feel cut off from the city and the longer journeys would go against council policy which is aimed at cutting kilometres driven by vehicles. Let's hope everyone in Edinburgh has their say in this proposal.”
Transport convener Scott Arthur said: "I’m pleased HES now recognises that through traffic isn’t compatible with what most people expect from a public park in Edinburgh. Once they set a date for removing traffic we will work with the local community to ensure any negative consequences are managed. I would also hope HES would take steps to reduce the use of parking in the park where people are treating it as a cheap option for accessing the city centre.”