Plans for top of Leith Walk ‘do not go far enough’

Artists impression map of development of Picardy Place
Artists impression map of development of Picardy Place
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REVISED proposals for the future layout of Picardy Place have come under fire amid claims they offer little by way of improvement for cyclists, pedestrians and users of public transport.

Redrawn plans for the junction were unveiled by the council last week following a public outcry that their initial proposals were old fashioned and focused too much on cars.

The council has said its new proposals provide greater segregation of cyclists and pedestrians but critics have hit back saying they do not go far enough.

A meeting of key stakeholders this week heard fresh concern over the junction’s layout, with the area at the top of Leith Walk being redesigned as part of the wider St James Quarter development.

Green councillor and transport spokesman Chas Booth was among the 50 to 60 people who attended.

He said: “It was clear that many stakeholders were unhappy at the revised Picardy Place proposals and unconvinced by council officers’ arguments that the design is ‘optimal’.

“Even the revised proposals give far too little priority to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.

“It’s essential we see further improvements to these designs, to create a people-friendly Picardy Place.”

As previously reported, the council’s initial plans involved a gyratory system with three lanes of traffic on each side of a central triangle.

Their new proposals, released last week, retain a large triangular island and three lanes of traffic on each side.

However, they include a larger area of public space outside the cathedral, more footway space and a reduction in potential conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists at key points.

Members of the public were invited to have their say this week as the council laid on two public sessions.

David Jamieson, partner at Zone Architects, which has previously released its own ideas for the junction, said he was pleased the Paolozzi sculptures and Sherlock Holmes statue featured in the new design.

But he added: “The gyratory creates some very awkward crossing points for pedestrians and cyclists. This has not changed on the revised scheme.

“The new scheme still has pavements that are too narrow and conflict points between cyclists and pedestrians on shared spaces.”

Meanwhile David Spaven, convenor of Living Streets’ Edinburgh group, said the latest consultation had only been “tinkering at the edges of the traffic scheme”, with the gyratory component “not up for discussion”.

He added: “There is a growing groundswell of local and cross-city opposition to the gyratory and we’re encouraged that councillors seem to have an open mind about the best solution for this crucial development area. It’s time for council officials to be bold and take a serious look at more civilised transport alternatives.”

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “The latest designs incorporate increased public realm and footway space, based on feedback we’ve already received.

“All feedback will be used to inform the final designs for a Picardy Place that best meets the combined needs of all, benefiting pedestrians and cyclists while enabling the smooth flow of public transport to and from the city.”