WALKING campaigners have hit out at latest plans for the future of the Picardy Place junction amid claims they will make the area “a poorer place for pedestrians”.
The revised plan for the space at the top of Leith Walk has been attacked by residents and the campaigners because it still involves a triangular central island with three lanes of traffic on each side.
The latest design changes for Picardy Place – which include a pavilion and cafe on the central island and more space for pedestrians outside St Mary’s Cathedral – were unveiled by the council ahead of a special meeting of the transport committee this Thursday to discuss the plans.
Critics said there had been some improvements but voiced disappointment that the “gyratory” element was still there.
And the charity Living Streets, which campaigns on behalf of walkers, hit out at the plans and said that, under the new designs, the space would still be “traffic-dominated”.
The council’s latest plans were unveiled last week and mark the latest in a series of revisions after the plans – initially published in September – were then redrawn in November.
Stuart Hay, of Living Streets, said there had been some improvements but that the junction would still be a “traffic-dominated space where people will get stuck trying to cross the road”. He added: “Our biggest priority is to improve the crossings to make them more direct so people don’t have to wait ages to cross the road.
“We need better and more transparent processes to avoid this type of situation – and much earlier consultation.”
The junction’s gyratory design was included in the £60m deal signed between the council, the Scottish Government and developers of the St James Quarter, using the Growth Accelerator Model (GAM) to provide finance based on future business rates revenue.
It is understood it could cost the council up to £20m if it abandoned the design.
Ian Maxwell, of cycling campaign group Spokes, said they too were disappointed that the plans were continuing.
He added: “We will continue to engage with the council to try and get the best possible solution and move away from a motor-dominated environment.
“Edinburgh has been moving towards a more pedestrian and cycle friendly city. It’s a shame a major change like this is going in the opposite direction.”
The council’s latest proposals will cost £1.5m to redesign, to be financed either from the council’s 20220/21 budget or borrowing the money, which with interest payments would push the cost up to £2.5m.
Leith Central Community Council has since written to the council, urging it to delay a decision on Picardy Place and look at a wider range of designs.
But transport and environment convener Lesley Macinnes defended the plans.
She said: “The proposed design reflects the historic street layout and provides the most effective solution for the needs of all road users, and in particular bus users, as well as allowing us flexibility to adapt to changing transport needs in future.”