Residents in court threat over traffic scheme

Residents from East Craigs and Craigmount are considering raising a legal action to obtain an interim interdict to stop the proposals by the council under the Spaces for People programme around their area.
Residents say the plans could make the area more dangerousResidents say the plans could make the area more dangerous
Residents say the plans could make the area more dangerous

Several residents and local councillors have united to sign a letter demanding that they halt the rollout of the “temporary” measures that are designed to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists in the community.

Residents feel they have not been consulted on the proposals and have stated that they feel the changes will make the area more “polluted, congested, isolated and dangerous”.

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Sandy Smith, 49, from East Craigs, said she feels the issue is going to lead to “kettling” on Craigs Road and Drumbrae South as well as making the area more dangerous for school children and families.

She believes that the new proposals will go against everything the council hopes to achieve.

She said: “My worry is that the council is stealthing through their active travel agenda as emergency Covid measures, and I just think if that is the case, it is really bad craic as we are leaving lockdown, not entering it.

“We are seriously considering legal action even though we will have to crowdfund and club together, but it looks like they are going to ignore us and only pay lip service to our letter.

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“If we are to seriously stop this then we must be willing to try everything in our power. As residents and taxpayers we feel let down and abandoned by the council.”

Sandy is part of a group of residents who had formed a WhatsApp chat when there was a spate of break-ins in the area. They have since used the group to organise and distribute hundreds of flyers as well as to collect signatures from several households on their street from those who object to the proposals.

A total of 59 families support the objections to the renovations; one family supports the council proposals and 15 families did not respond – meaning that the community feels that they wholly reject the new proposals as unwarranted.

David Hunter, 46, a Craigmount resident, said: “I think that they need to put a hold on the plans at the very least to allow a full and thorough engagement process with local residents as no effort has been made up until now to gather our thoughts.

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“The local community council and councillors did not have a consultation. And the opportunity to submit comments or concerns was only open for five days. It does not feel like we have a voice at all.

“I think it is just the case that this does more harm than good, and if the council wants to look at managing the speed of traffic along Craigs Road, they could put proper speed restrictions in place instead of the futile efforts they wasted money on in the past.

“They should also think of the East Craigs residents who will now only be able to access their city through the gridlock at Maybury and Barnton junction.

“We are seriously considering legal action if the council does not halt their plans immediately – we do not know what else to do.”

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Local councillors have also been left to scratch their heads as they found out about the proposals at the same time as residents. Both councillors and residents feel that key stakeholders in the community have been ignored.

Robert Aldridge, Lib Dem councillor for Drum Brae/Gyle and an advocate of active travel, had written in the Evening News about his concerns and opposition to the proposals. He said that he feared the community could be “virtually sealed off” from the rest of the city.

A council spokesperson said: “The proposals to implement road closures and segregated cycleways in the East Craigs area to help pedestrians and cyclists travel safely while meeting physical distancing requirements are still under consideration.”

Edinburgh City Council has been awarded £5 million under the Spaces for People scheme which is funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Sustrans to make temporary changes to the Capital’s streets, as lockdown is eased, to make it easier and safer for people to move around.

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The cash pays for street closures, wider pavements, temporary cycle and bus lanes and clearing street clutter so people can maintain physical distancing while walking or cycling.

But some of the proposals have caused controversy, not least because of the much-curtailed consultation involved before the measures are implemented. Councillors, community councils and business representatives are given five days to put their views.

And critics have accused the council of using the Covid crisis as a cover for rushing through traffic changes which would normally have taken much longer to introduce.

A series of measures are being implemented in local town centres across the city in a move which sparked some concerns about reduced parking.

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Businesses in some areas have complained the suspension of parking spaces will hit their trade, though supporters of the changes say they improve the area and mean people spend more time in their local high streets, which is good for businesses.

Victoria Street and Cockburn Street in the Old Town have been closed to traffic except for limited delivery times.

Temporary segregated cycle lanes have been introduced on roads across the Capital, including the key routes to the Royal Infirmary along Old Dalkeith Road and on Crewe Road South to the Western General.

The lockdown has seen a big increase in cycling and the council says it is installing more than 30km of segregated cycle lanes across the city to support people to return to work, take leisurely trips or to visit one another on bikes.