June 2019

#SpokesMtg report – City Centre Transformation

Latest: Spokes response to the Transformation Proposals consultation.

Almost every one of the 110 chairs was filled at our public meeting on Edinburgh Council’s City Centre Transformation Proposals.

Top theme to emerge from the talks and the hour-long discussion was that the proposals are encouraging and bold – but that they involve a process of ongoing planning, feedback and implementation in which it is vital to keep engaged. The monthly Sunday car-free Open Streets, now underway, are are the very first step.

Ongoing supportive (and constructively critical) feedback on social media and in emails to Councillors will encourage the Council to stick to a bold agenda and will help counter the negativity from a vociferous minority.

For fuller details of the Transformation proposals, see our website report here and the links from it.

There’s a great video of the entire meeting, incorporating the speeches, speaker slides and the Q/A, on our YouTube channel (also accessible via our videos tab above). As the whole meeting is on the video, we’ll only give a couple of main points from each speaker below…

Dave du Feu Introducing the meeting

Daisy Narayanan Transformation Project Leader and Sustrans Deputy Director of Built Environment

  • The Transformation is not just about transport – it is about social, economic and environmental change – these come together for the city to develop in a sustainable way
  • It is vital for politicians and the public to see things happening from year 1. It must be good but it need not be perfect – it is a process – we learn, tweak and improve as we gain experience and knowledge.

Cllr Chas Booth Green Transport Speaker

  • Green councillors very positive about the proposals and congratulate Daisy and Cllr Macinnes on how they have devoted so much time and skill to building consensus amongst potential sceptics during the last year
  • Important questions for the consultation include… enough bike segregation? enough car-free areas? why LEZ so weak? will delivery happen timeously?

Chris Paton Spokes Planning Group

  • The ambition of the Transformation is very high. Reduction of parking and of traffic will be key to its success
  • Some likely Spokes suggestions … More traffic reduction N-S (e.g. Leith Street); a denser cycle network; segregated routes on arterial roads; a much wider LEZ.

There was then a 45-minute audience QA/ panel discussion chaired by Dr Caroline Brown of The Urban Institute, Heriot-Watt University and co-director of EdFoC.  Points raised included those below – NB we have summarised/combined points discussed, so they are not all in the same order as in the video.

Video clip – Caroline tells the panel how it will be
  • Powers – Councils need more powers from the Scottish Government
    • for example the forthcoming Workplace Parking Levy (though it will be weaker than England’s instead of stronger)
    • simplification to the Traffic Orders which can delay active travel projects by well over a year when the rules require a government inquiry.
  • Lothians & Edinburgh suburban – Good bike routes into Edinburgh needed, for Lothians residents and to cut car penetration into the city
    • Cllr Macinnes has set up a working group with Lothians Councils
    • SEStran needs to have capital funding (for cross-boundary routes) restored by the Scottish Government, who scrapped it when SNP first came to power
    • The forthcoming City Plan should include contributions towards providing arterial cycleroutes by developers of large new housing areas
    • Future housing development should be car-free and in areas well served by public transport, active travel routes and local facilities. Astonishingly, Council is still frequently allowing developments where you have to go by car to buy a pint of milk or a newspaper.
  • Parking enforcement – Parking in bike lanes is a huge problem.
    • Government should raise penalty charge (it is a govt decision) – has not been changed for 10 years
    • Edinburgh Council should get a second towtruck and should operate them at weekends
    • Traffic reduction may make enforcement easier
    • Design can help a lot, though not total solution
  • Parking permissions
    • Sunday free parking contradicts Transformation aims – but Council is planning to introduce Sunday charging [current proposal is after midday??][Later – we understand the TRO allowing this will be advertised for objections in August with the scheme being implemented some time in 2020]
    • Under the Transformation plans, parking will initially be totally removed from 3 streets, and will be progressively reduced elsewhere in the central area
    • Will city centre car restrictions displace parking to residential areas? – Council is in a process of extensive widening of residential parking zones [Strategic Parking Review].
    • Great suggestion that as each parking zone is implemented and/or revised, residents should be told about (incentivised for?) City Car Club, City Bike Hire, Spokes maps, etc.
  • Bike infrastructure design
    • Questions such as … Why are new facilities often not good enough? e.g. Leith Walk segregated route not pedestrian/cycle kerb-separated. Why is council not putting all AT resources into segregated routes on arterial roads rather than off-road route?
    • Daisy – design and implementation is a long process – traffic orders and inquiries, countering vociferous opposition, etc. Original Leith Walk section was designed 5 years ago against huge opposition (due to removing a car lane) and at an early stage of design experience. Designers and the public are continually learning from experience of early schemes (e.g. kerb separation) and the changing political climate is allowing bolder proposals. However we cannot continually delay/replace existing near-implementation projects in favour of something better, as we then need another 2 years for design/consultation/legalities. The way to go is a continual process of implementation, learning, convincing and improving.

Meeting resources

What you can do now

  • Read this article carefully.  If you are an Edinburgh resident and wish to take up any of the points, contact your councillors. Find them at… www.edinburgh.gov.uk/councillors. When contacting councillors about the Transformation try to begin with positivity, then offer your comments and suggestions for improvement in a constructive way. Sadly, Councillors who take a lead often face personal abuse – your encouragement helps them stick to their beliefs and actions.
  • Take part in the Transformation consultation [ending 28 June] and other future consultations. Keep in touch with what is happening by joining Spokes!
  • Retweet the tweet of this article.

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