As I outlined on my Facebook page earlier today, I have been working hard over the past few days to gain clarity on the legal and evidential basis for the latest batch of Spaces for People schemes. In addition to this I have been saying the Council needs to listen to the needs of residents more when promoting these schemes.
There are clear benefits to even the most controversial schemes such as the closure of Braid Road. They also, however, come with consequences for local residents and businesses. In my view, the Council has a duty to engage with the public and present evidence-based arguments which show the benefits outweigh the consequences. This is the only way to meet Edinburgh’s longer-term goal of increasing walking, cycling and public transport use. Community engagement, not just consultation, is key as it leads to better outcomes on infrastructure projects. It increases acceptance of decisions by the public, and provides a community commitment to outcomes. The Council’s failure to engage with residents and businesses is why 92% of 300+ people who responded to the Council’s “consultation” on the Lanark Road Spaces for People scheme oppose it.
Within this context, the Labour Group agreed the following reasonable requests for the Transport Committee tomorrow:
- the proposed ETRO in East Craigs be halted and the Council works with residents on a TRO;
- that all new Spaces for People schemes be “paused and an evidence-based report is produced which demonstrates that the proposed use of Covid TTRO powers is proportionate”; and,
- Braid Road should be the subject of a “specific proportionality study” which includes “monitoring pedestrian and cycle use of Braid Road for a period whilst simultaneously monitoring traffic, public transport delays and air pollution on the A702 corridor”. This should be followed by a temporary re-opening of Braid Road, during which time the same data continues to be monitored for both Braid Road and the A702 corridor.
I understand that these requests were blocked by the SNP Group in the Council. I have therefore decided not to put myself in a position of being asked to vote for something which I genuinely feel may leave the Council open to legal challenge, and shall be asking to be removed from the Transport and Environment Committee.