Edinburgh's Spaces for People: Four most controversial schemes will be looked at again, committee agrees
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Four of Edinburgh's most controversial Spaces for People schemes are to be looked at again in a bid to make them work better and satisfy local people's concerns.
The measures in Braid Road and the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route, Comiston Road and Silverknowes Roads North and South will now be separated from the rest of the city's 42 Spaces for People projects – now renamed Travelling Safely – which are to be kept in place under Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs).
The processing of the ETROs has been delayed after errors by consultants working for the council were discovered in April, meaning all the ETROs had to be re-advertised, but then the consultants' revisions were found to have errors too and the council has now brought the work in-house. However, the transport committee has seized the opportunity to agree a re-examination of the most contentious schemes, while allowing the rest to proceed.
Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang proposed the rethink on the four schemes. He noted that Labour transport convener Scott Arthur had accepted that mistakes had been made in the previous term of the council in the way the projects had been taken forward. Cllr Lang said: "Even now I see and hear the evidence of the damage I think was done in terms of trust and confidence that people felt because of the way in which some of these projects were handled. We think it is time to think again on those schemes which were clearly the most controversial."
Highlighting the two Silverknowes schemes, he said: ”I remember being told that once these schemes are in place people get used to them, it'll be fine and people will accept them. That is simply not the case. In Silverknowes we still have the road closed down to the promenade that forces people to take a much longer diversion; it has not reduced traffic down to the promenade; and we also still have this solution-seeking-a-problem of the Silverknowes quiet route scheme, which few if any people use because it takes such a ridiculously complicated and convoluted route through the Silverknowes estate.
Morningside Lib Dem councillor Neil Ross spoke about the Greenbank-Meadows Quiet Route, which he said he wanted to retain and improve. He said: “Local cyclists tell me they don't feel safe using the southern section of the route; local residents in the Braid estate tell me they don't feel safe walking and cycling in their streets because of the displacement of the through traffic.” And he said there were conerns about the Braid Road junction with Hermitage Drive and Comiston Road at the junction with Comiston Springs Avenue. “It makes sense that complicated controversial schemes should have a stand-alone basis so that they can develop potentially better, safer outcomes by trialling different solutions appropriate for each scheme.”
Green transport spokeswoman Jule Bandel said Travelling Safely was key to the council’s aim of reducing car kilometres by 30 per cent by 2030. “I know that some people are very vocal in opposition to any measures that limit where they can drive and how fast they can drive, but there is also widespread support for these schemes and there are loads of people who would like to see them made permanent.” She acknowledged some of the designs were “not perfect and will need adjustments” but she said the four schemes had been singled out because of negative feedback without mentioning that many people supported them. She was backed by the SNP’s Danny Aston.
The Tories produced a list of seven schemes they said residents were not happy with, adding three to the Lib Dems’ list – Lanark Road, Duddingston Road and Duddingston Road West. Transport spokeswoman Marie-Clair Munro said: “Spaces for People has been highly contentious in certain areas across the city. We're not saying everything should go back to the way it was. We're saying things could be improved for the benefits of all but what has happened is we have created rat runs, we have cyclists not knowing where they are going and there is very bad signage. We have residents saying 'We want people to get around, waking, wheeling and cycling, but the way it has been designed is not working.'” But the Tories withdrew their amendment before it went to a vote and the Lib Dems’ proposal, backed by Labour, was passed by six votes to five.
Afterwards, convener Scott Arthur said there would now be a fresh consideration of the four schemes, as well as a look back at earlier feedback, to “look quite fundamentally” at how the aims of the projects were being delivered. He said: "There is more consensus than ever now on what was Spaces for People. By the end of the debate no political party was calling for any scheme to be removed. The vast majority will continue as planned under the ETRO process, but for these four schemes there were concerns that perhaps they're not working right, what we need to do is maintain the aims of the projects – making walking and cycling safer and more attractive – but look to see if what we're doing right now is the best way of delivering that objective and speaking to residents about what they think needs to be improved.”