Mixed opinions on Merchiston ‘Spaces for People’ plans

Merchiston residents have voiced mixed opinions about plans for road closures, cycle lanes and bus gates in their neighbourhood.

By Joseph Anderson
Thursday, 19th November 2020, 7:00 am
The James Gillespie Primary School travel committee said there could be many benefits on roads such as Warrender Park Road and Whitehouse Loan. Picture: GoogleMaps.
The James Gillespie Primary School travel committee said there could be many benefits on roads such as Warrender Park Road and Whitehouse Loan. Picture: GoogleMaps.

Since April, Edinburgh City Council has used a £5m grant from the Scottish Government to introduce various road closures and temporary traffic measures as part of its ‘Spaces for People’ project.

Some of these measures, introduced without public consultation using emergency coronavirus powers, have proved incredibly controversial, with several sparking community campaigns against them.

Other measures, particularly in areas that experience serious traffic congestion or speeding, have been broadly welcomed by residents.

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Merchiston Community Council held a virtual meeting on Tuesday November 17, where residents from both sides of the fence met to discuss the proposals.

Morag Jones, from Living Streets Edinburgh, a group which campaigns for more pedestrian and cycling environments in the capital, told the meeting: “We completed a street audit of the A702 corridor, between Toll Cross and Morningside, and identified a lot of parts where there was movement space, queueing spaces, walking space, and buffer space which all benefitted pedestrians in this area.

“We are very supportive of all the measures with Spaces for People. We feel that some of the media coverage has exaggerated the perceived negative effects, but basically, we are very keen to promote these as safer, more civilised places for us to travel sustainably, work, linger and shop in this area.

“We are still very keen to maintain all the pedestrian spaces which have been in use.”

Bruntsfield Crescent resident Christine Carr told the meeting the emergency powers being used by the council were unnecessary, and prior consultation should take place.

She said: “I want to make sure we’re doing the right thing and not just being reactive.

“Of course we’re supportive of the principles of Spaces for People, and Blackford Safe Routes, and indeed all of the school parent council’s points about safety for children – it really goes without saying that’s a given.

“What I’m concerned about here is the process which is taking place and I’m happy to be told I’m misunderstanding, but it feels as if what is happening is initiatives such as the quiet route, which has been ongoing for more than a year, and is certainly worthy of debate, has now been picked up as part of Spaces for People, which I understand is an emergency order to meet Covid requirements.

“Now, Covid has been in place since March and I haven’t seen any need, living as a need looking at Whitehouse Loan, and indeed the traffic has gone down on that road on what was already a quiet route.

“So I’m failing to understand the need to rush this through as an emergency measure and my understanding is that requires this temporary traffic regulation order, and what I’m objecting to is that.

“I want to express my frustration, and frankly my upset, that this is going to be pushed through as an emergency measure when it is clearly not an emergency measure.”

Ed Hawkins, a member of the James Gillespie Primary School travel committee, said: “There is a huge latent demand for people to walk or cycle to school.

“We had 160 participants on one of the ‘bike buses’ and during the initial lockdown we saw families, everyday by the hour, cycling with small kids down Warrender Park Road and Whitehouse Loan.

“The whole purpose of the quiet route is to try and replicate this. It does mean that there may be some slight inconvenience to some drivers, but we see that as a very small price to pay to enable so many benefits.”

The council is set to approve a whole raft of new Spaces for People schemes at the next meeting of the council on Thursday November 19.

This includes four new major schemes in the capital:

South Bridge – The carriageway will be reduced down to two lanes, north bound will be closed to all traffic except buses and taxis between 7.30am and 6.30pm, cycle segregation will be introduced on both sides, and all bus stops will be relocated to North Bridge.

Lanark Road, Longstone Road and Inglis Green Road – Installation of cycle segregation lanes, revised parking arrangements, introduction of a bus lane on approach to Gillespie Crossroads, and reduction of speed limit to 30mph.

A1 and A90 – Segregated cycle routes, pedestrian safety improvements and street clutter removal along both arterial routes.

Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Reporting Service.