Covid-19 Cycling and Walking Measures at Buckstone Primary School

Eight months after lockdown started, the Councils “urgent” “emergency response” has reached Buckstone Primary School! Below are plans I received this evening for a small Spaces for People scheme around Buckstone Primary School. Although the stated focus of this scheme is the response to Covid-19, road safety issues around the school are well known. Nonetheless, the school community and people living around the school may have suggestions to improve the proposals.

The Council have included the following in the consultation: Police, Fire Service, NHS, SPOKES and Fairmilehead Community Council. I have passed details on the the Parent Council and the Headteacher to ensure they know what’s planned.

Covid-19 Cycling and Walking Emergency Response Measures at Buckstone Primary School
Please be advised that as part of overall emergency measures we are proposing to re-designate key parts of the road network to help pedestrians and cyclists travel safely while meeting physical distancing requirements. 

I have attached the proposed designs for the scheme.  In summary it shows:

  • Close road to vehicular traffic on Buckstone Loan East at Buckstone Close maintaining access for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Prohibit vehicles on Buckstone Circus [SA – I think this is Buckstone Circle, I am waiting on confirmation.], maintaining access for pedestrians, cyclists, residents, school deliveries and waste collections.

Given the urgency to make the required changes any comments relating to these proposals should be received by 5pm on Thursday 10th September 2020 to spacesforpeople@edinburgh.gov.uk. [SA – I assume this date is an error, I am waiting on confirmation.]

All feedback will be reviewed and where possible the scheme will be further refined. Feedback will be summarised in an assessment feedback form which will be presented to the Council Incident Management Team for approval. Please note that we will be unable to respond to individual emails.

If the proposal is approved for implementation, publicity will then be undertaken so that local people are aware of the changes. A dedicated inbox will help us to manage any feedback around proposals – spacesforpeople@edinburgh.gov.uk

The introduction of, or changes to, any restrictions will be implemented under emergency delegated decision-making powers using a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order.

Spaces for People – Inclusion or Exclusion?

I had a really useful meeting today with Guide Dogs Scotland & RNIB Scotland with regard to Edinburgh’s Spaces for People scheme, and the challenges/opportunities it presents for people with sight problems. I learnt a few lessons, not least from this video which they shared.

It is pretty clear that they feel they (and people with visual impairments) have been excluded to some extent from the consultation process. In particular, they highlighted that the Common Place tool is visually driven, and no alternative was provided for people with sight loss- this is shameful stuff.

We also shared concerns about the balance between support for cycling and walking, with things like floating bus stops putting vulnerable pedestrians at a real disadvantage. Their key requests include:

  1. Mobility and accessibility needs of disabled people are fully considered in the planning and delivery of such measures.
  2. It is essential to consider the impacts of any temporary measures on disabled people, including people who have difficulty walking, wheelchair users, people with cognitive impairments, dementia, autism, etc. and people with sensory impairments. This is a legal requirement under the provisions of the 2010 Equality Act.
  3. Many disabled people have found the pandemic extremely stressful. Changes to usual travel patterns, to public transport services, parking arrangements, etc. can add to anxiety. Spaces for People initiatives should therefore be seen in this context – continual changes should therefore be avoided where possible, and should be effectively communicated to the public including disabled people.
  4. Many disabled people depend on cars (both to drive and as a passenger) and taxis. Road changes shouldn’t prevent disabled people from being able to stop near their destination. This is not only about ‘disabled parking bays’ but also considering if measures may reduce vehicle access to kerbs and the flexibility for blue badge holdersto park on single or double yellow lines.
  5. Safe space for pedestrians should be separate from cyclists as far as possible. Any shared-use paths or areas must be designed so that cyclists understand the need to give way to pedestrians and maintain a reasonable distance.

Their guidance to Councils is here:

Spaces for People – We need to put some facts on the table.

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:

  1. the proposed ETRO in East Craigs be halted and the Council works with residents on a TRO;
  2. 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,
  3. 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.

Final Plans – Lanark Road, Longstone Road and Inglis Green Road

Linked below is the Council’s report on the hundreds of comments received in response to the proposed Lanark Road, Longstone Road and Inglis Green Road Spaced for People Scheme.

The report confirms that “over 300 emails [were] received both in favour and against“, but does not note the balance of opinion (I have asked for that information). It does note, however, that a “public petition with over 1,000 signatures opposing the proposals was submitted to Councillors on 12 October“.

It appears that many comments have been dismissed or dealt with superficially – this is particularly true of comments raised by Community Councils and disability groups.

For example, the Edinburgh Access Panel say: “Please ensure the provision of access and parking for blue badge holders in the roads affected by your proposals is at least equivalent to the current provision“. The Council simply responds saying: “Parking and Loading access has been retained as far as possible”.

It appears that Lothian Buses were not consulted.

Update – Lanark Road & Braid Road Spaces for People Schemes.

The front page of the Evening News today.

The Evening News is today reporting that it has been briefed by the Council that the Transport Committee will next week “rubber stamp” the Lanark Road Spaces for People scheme and the continued closure of Braid Road. This is despite the final plans and the details of the recent consultation not yet having been made public.

Lanark Road
Overnight the “Spaces for People Update – November 2020” report appeared on the Council’s website. For the Lanark Road scheme, the Council is now publicly stating what I reported on the 28th of October – the aim is “to provide a safe, protected cycling route as an alternative to the canal
towpath and Water of Leith shared use path..
.”.

Finalised plans are not presented. Indeed, the scheme is described simply using 13 bullet points. It is claimed that the scheme will “form part of a longer route intended to provide an alternative to the Water of Leith and Union Canal towpath to enable physical distancing and reduce congestion and conflict on these busy routes…”, but no details of this are provided. The recent consultation gets no mention.

Braid Report
The Braid Road closure also gets a mention in the Council’s report. This has been closed for some time due to the large numbers of people trying to access The Hermitage in early lockdown raising concerns about social distancing. Whilst difficulties maintaining social distancing at site are now much less of a concern, the Council has refused to back down and reopen the road even on a trial basis.

The Council is again saying the closure is needed to enable the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route. Although the Quiet Route plans now appear far less ambitious than I previously reported, the Council want to “maintain the existing Braid Road closure and introduce specific measures near the St Peter’s and James Gillespie’s schools to provide a coherent quiet connection from the Greenbank area through to the existing Meadows active travel network”.

“At present the closure of Braid Road has effectively removed through traffic from the Cluny area. If Braid Road was re-opened in any direction this would re-introduce traffic to this area, primarily on Midmar Avenue and Hermitage Drive which would cause a conflict between general traffic, and users of the quiet route on Hermitage Drive. This could significantly undermine the attractiveness of the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Corridor.”

CITY OF EDINBURGH COUNCIL

The report accepts that the Braid Road closure means traffic on Comiston Road is 11% higher than pre-Covid levels. Whilst this may mean less traffic is passing James Gillespie’s, far more is passing South Morningside Primary School – is more noise and pollution there acceptable? Additionally, added congestion on Comiston Road means buses are delayed and passengers are exposed to Covid transmission risks for longer.

Again, no finalised plans have been make public for the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route and there is now mention of the consultation responses.

09-11-2020 Update – I now have a plan for this scheme – it is at the bottom of this post.

Legal Advice
There are benefits to the Lanark Road scheme and the continued closure of Braid Road. Both, however, come with consequences for local residents and businesses. In my view, the Council has a duty to present evidence based arguments which show the benefits outweigh the consequences.

Indeed the use of the Covid TTRO processes removes the rights local people and businesses have to be consulted on these changes. However, using the Covid TTRO process must be a proportionate response to the pandemic. The Council has already been rocked by claims that these powers are not being used properly.

The legal position is only mentioned once in the report, and this is only in relation to the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route – “All of the measures proposed have been considered in respect of the legal powers associated with TTRO powers. An assessment of the measures and the associated legislation has concluded that these proposals have been developed to provide access to appropriate areas which enables safe active travel for all ages during the transition through and beyond COVID-19.”

That’s it. The “assessment” is not shared and no argument is made to explain why the scheme is proportionate or how it warrants the use of TTRO powers specifically. There is no similar statement for the Lanark Road scheme.

We all want safer streets, less pollution and better support for walking and cycling, but this can only happen when the Council works with communities. Time and time again with Spaces for People in Edinburgh we have seen that even the best transport engineers will come unstuck if they don’t draw on local lived experience when drawing up their designs. If the Council wants to go beyond the Covid TTRO remit or can’t show that the benefits of these schemes outweigh the consequences, this is the approach it must adopt.

Expert judgment informed by lived experience leads to good design. 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 as local lived experience from diverse groups shapes and creates inclusive, effective solutions.
The revised Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route.

UPDATE – Lanark Road & Braid Road Spaces for People Schemes.

The front page of the Evening News today

The Evening News is today reporting that it has been briefed by the Council that the Transport Committee will next week “rubber stamp” the Lanark Road Spaces for People scheme and the continued closure of Braid Road. This is despite the final plans and the details of the recent consultation not yet having been made public.

Lanark Road
Overnight the “Spaces for People Update – November 2020” report appeared on the Council’s website. For the Lanark Road scheme, the Council is now publicly stating what I reported on the 28th of October – the aim is “to provide a safe, protected cycling route as an alternative to the canal
towpath and Water of Leith shared use path..
.”.

Finalised plans are not presented. Indeed, the scheme is described simply using 13 bullet points. It is claimed that the scheme will “form part of a longer route intended to provide an alternative to the Water of Leith and Union Canal towpath to enable physical distancing and reduce congestion and conflict on these busy routes…”, but no details of this are provided. The recent consultation gets no mention.

Braid Report
The Braid Road closure also gets a mention in the Council’s report. This has been closed for some time due to the large numbers of people trying to access The Hermitage in early lockdown raising concerns about social distancing. Whilst difficulties maintaining social distancing at site are now much less of a concern, the Council has refused to back down and reopen the road even on a trial basis.

The Council is again saying the closure is needed to enable the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route. Although the Quiet Route plans now appear far less ambitious than I previously reported, the Council want to “maintain the existing Braid Road closure and introduce specific measures near the St Peter’s and James Gillespie’s schools to provide a coherent quiet connection from the Greenbank area through to the existing Meadows active travel network”.

“At present the closure of Braid Road has effectively removed through traffic from the Cluny area. If Braid Road was re-opened in any direction this would re-introduce traffic to this area, primarily on Midmar Avenue and Hermitage Drive which would cause a conflict between general traffic, and users of the quiet route on Hermitage Drive. This could significantly undermine the attractiveness of the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Corridor.”

CITY OF EDINBURGH COUNCIL

The report accepts that the Braid Road closure means traffic on Comiston Road is 11% higher than pre-Covid levels. Whilst this may mean less traffic is passing James Gillespie’s, far more is passing South Morningside Primary School – is more noise and pollution there acceptable? Additionally, added congestion on Comiston Road means buses are delayed and passengers are exposed to Covid transmission risks for longer.

Again, no finalised plans have been make public for the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route and there is now mention of the consultation responses.

Legal Advice
There are benefits to the Lanark Road scheme and the continued closure of Braid Road. Both, however, come with consequences for local residents and businesses. In my view, the Council has a duty to present evidence based arguments which show the benefits outweigh the consequences.

Indeed the use of the Covid TTRO processes removes the rights local people and businesses have to be consulted on these changes. However, using the Covid TTRO process must be a proportionate response to the pandemic. The Council has already been rocked by claims that these powers are not being used properly.

The legal position is only mentioned once in the report, and this is only in relation to the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route – “All of the measures proposed have been considered in respect of the legal powers
associated with TTRO powers. An assessment of the measures and the associated legislation has concluded that these proposals have been developed to provide access to appropriate areas which enables safe active travel for all ages during the transition through and beyond COVID-19.”

That’s it. The “assessment” is not shared and no argument is made to explain why the scheme is proportionate or how it warrants the use of TTRO powers specifically. There is no similar statement for the Lanark Road scheme.

We all want safer streets, less pollution and better support for walking and cycling, but this can only happen when the Council works with communities. Time and time again with Spaces for People in Edinburgh we have seen that even the best transport engineers will come unstuck if they don’t draw on local lived experience when drawing up their designs. If the Council wants to go beyond the Covid TTRO remit or can’t show that the benefits of these schemes outweigh the consequences, this is the approach it must adopt.

Expert judgment informed by lived experience leads to good design. 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 as local lived experience from diverse groups shapes and creates inclusive, effective solutions.

UPDATE – Lanark and Longstone/Inglis Green Road Spaces for People Proposals

This evening I attended a meeting of Councillors representing people along the proposed Lanark Road / Ingles Green Spaces for People Scheme. The meeting was chaired by the Transport Convener, but disappointingly the updated plans and consultation responses were not shared. Nor were we told how many people had responded to the consultation, but it was reported that the majority did object. It was also noted that a local petition which had raised concerns about the scheme had attracted “around 1000” signatures (1,344 actually).

It was explained that the aim of the scheme was to reduce congestion on the Canal Towpath and the Water of Leith Walkway. This appears to be based on anecdotes about usage in April, and an assertion that cycle traffic is still higher than normal. “Key Pinch Points” were noted as being Slateford Aqueduct and Harrision Park (no Water of Leith locations were mentioned). I asked if the plans were proportionate, and if the risks justified the use of Covid Powers. Although no evidence was tabled, it was argued that because the towpath was already busy pre-Covid then the plans are justified. Although I accept the towpath is/was busy (I broke my arm in a low-speed collision last year), I think a stronger argument needs to be made to justify the use of Covid Powers. Lessons have to be learned from the East Craigs debacle.

Key points.

1. The revised plans will be published along with the consultation responses before the mid-November Transport Committee. Transport Convener said she would not permit any further consultation on the plans.

2. The floating bus stops will not be part of the “Phase 1” installation. As I reported on my Facebook page, the Council are working with Sustrans on developing a new “factsheet” on these, and as part of this they will carry out a workshop with relevant affected groups who have raised concerns. Once this is complete they will review Lanark Road and consider the installation of floating bus stops along the corridor. If this does take place it will be subject to a Road Safety Audit before installation. To be honest, I doubt a “new factsheet” will change my mind or that of anyone else.

3. The Transport Convener expressed disappointment that the wider Spaces for People initiative has not been allowed to “flourish” due to public concerns being raised and regretted that the Lanark Road scheme (along with others) had become a “flashpoint”.

4. Changes to the plans have been made to accommodate Cranley Nursery, Lanark Road Nursery and Dovecot Park. Although I requested these changes (along with many residents), it appears the Council has yet to contact Cranley Nursery and several other businesses along the route. The Golf Club has also not been contacted.

5. The Council accept they have not given a great deal of consideration to the nurseries, but they hope that the scheme will encourage people to cycle to both Cranley Nursery and Lanark Road Nursery.

6. A temporary pedestrian crossing at Dovecot Park is not possible.

7. It was reported that the proposed Lanark Road / Ingles Green Scheme was a “top priority” within the wider Spaces for People initiative. Nonetheless, if work gets underway as planned in mid January 2021 it will go live more than 10 months after lockdown started.

Present at the meeting
Cllr Lesley Macinnes (Transport Convener)
Council staff (x3)

Cllr Scott Arthur
Cllr Ricky Henderson
Cllr Gavin Corbett
Cllr Neil Gardiner
Cllr Andrew Johnston
Cllr David Key
Cllr Jason Rust

Present but did not speak
Cllr Karen Doran
Cllr Sue Webber

Did not / Could not attend
Cllr Ashley Graczyk
Cllr Cathy Fullerton
Cllr Denis Dixon
Cllr Donald Willson
Cllr Graeme Bruce
Cllr Phil Doggart

Provision of Free School Meals in Edinburgh during holidays thanks to Marcus Rashford

Thanks to the actions of Marcus Rashford, the SNP Government has been forced (unlike the Tories) to make £6.95m available to local councils to fund free school meals over the Christmas, February and Easter breaks. As the announcement was not made until last week, people will have to apply to be reimbursed for the October break.

It should not take a pandemic for Scotland to ensure food is on the table of the poorest households – see my pre-Covid Council motion here.

Full briefing from the Council below.

Briefing
The Scottish Government confirmed last week that £6.95m is being made available to local authorities to provide Free School Meals (FSM) to eligible families during the holidays throughout the winter months.

Final allocations are still to be confirmed but Edinburgh is expected to receive £330,000. This includes covering provision for the October holidays, with the option for Councils to provide retrospective cash payments – which we are doing.

Scottish Ministers have also offered funding for the Easter holidays in 2021, which will be agreed in the next financial year – Edinburgh’s allocation has still to be confirmed.

As of today (Monday 26 October) we have made 6,435 retrospective payments (£13.50 per child) for the 2020 October holiday period direct to bank accounts for eligible families.

The payments are paid to the parents and carers of P1 to S6 children who receive a School Clothing Grant. As with the previous FSM payments over the school closures/summer holidays, children in P1 to P3 are not automatically entitled to FSM payments even though they receive the meals under Scottish Government legislation. In order to get the FSM holiday payments, they must have received a clothing grant/or have an income-based entitlement to FSM for the current term (2020/21).

A letter is also being issued to parents/carers who have been identified as being entitled to FSM with full details of how to send us their payment information securely using our online form before the end of November (30/11/20).

Parent and carers who were in receipt of FSM before the October holiday do not have to contact the Council as they will automatically receive the FSM holiday payment. Parents and carers who applied for FSM before the October holiday do not have to contact the Council as they will automatically be considered for the FSM holiday payment when their application is processed.

Residents making enquiries about FSM payments will be directed to the online application form where the eligibility criteria is set out: https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/xfp/form/221

Briefing – Community youth work in community centres, library re-opening and the use of school facilities for extra-curricular activities

Below is a briefing from the Council on Community youth work in community centres, library re-opening and the use of school facilities for extra-curricular activities.

Community youth work in community centres, library re-opening and the use of school facilities for extra-curricular activities

Throughout the pandemic the Council has been trying to balance the need to continue providing services to residents while keeping colleagues safe and following national guidance. The need to do this currently is particularly acute as cases of covid-19 are rising across the city. There are also challenges around re-opening services to pre-covid levels in a safe way given the financial cost of covid-19 to the Council.

We need to bear in mind the wider dependencies between the delivery of these covered in this briefing note and the safe provision of school education. These dependencies include the cost and availability of:

  • cleaning and janitorial support and
  • the potential increased risks to school provision by opening the school estate more broadly that potentially impact on the controls put in place to reduce the spread of infection within schools.

This briefing note updates you on the current position of the three key issues of:

  • working with community centre management committees to facilitate using the centres for community youth work
  • re-opening of a second tranche of libraries and
  • steps being taken to allow extra-curricular activities using school facilities to re-start.

These must be managed within Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland guidance and considering other associated guidance issued by bodies such as COSLA.

Current position
Planned next steps
Reporting to committee

Current position

Community youth work in community centres

At present, the Council is facilitating detached youth work in outdoor spaces and on a one-to-one basis in publicly accessible indoor spaces. This is to allow for critical contact with young people who are most in need.

Our Lifelong Learning Service team would normally deliver direct a range of youth work programmes in schools and community settings. At times, we deliver this youth work in partnership with community and third-party organisations. However, most of it is provided by the voluntary/third sector. Many of these organisations have access to their own premises and, in line with Scottish Government guidance for the third sector, have re-started providing youth work in those buildings.

There are youth work providers that use council community centres to carry out their work. This is mainly coordinated directly with the management committee, although often facilities management (FM) and business support services (BSS) by Council staff.

Please note that some targeted individual support for young people from youth work providers can take place in school settings where this work forms part of a GIRFEC child plan.

As reported to Policy and Sustainability Committee on 6 August, we have a process in place to enable management committees to make direct arrangements with the Council to access the building for defined purposes, including:

  • early learning and childcare
  • out of school care
  • blood donation services
  • food banks and other humanitarian purposes.
Libraries re-opening

As recommended in the report to the Policy and Sustainability Committee on 6 August, six of the 28 libraries have been reopened. These are:

  • Central Library
  • Fountainbridge
  • Kirkliston
  • McDonald Road
  • Newington
  • Stockbridge.

While the libraries service team would be able to run additional libraries, the key pressure on the Council relates to FM resources which are deployed within the school estate. Maintaining school re-opening has required – and continues to require – an increased level of FM resource across the whole school estate as they must deliver additional cleaning and infection prevention requirements. In addition, we’ve seen an increase (as at 18 October 2020) in the sickness absence rates for FM colleagues, with a number required to self-isolate as a result of covid-19 cases rising in schools, both within the student and colleague/teaching populations.

It is therefore essential that additional pressures and stress are not unduly placed on the FM service through further increasing the workload without a corresponding increase in both budget and available staff to undertake this additional work. To help mitigate these pressures, we’ve continued to recruit cleaning staff throughout the pandemic (recruitment has never slowed) and, at present, we’re progressing filling 56 posts.

School facilities for extra-curricular activities

Over the course of the first term, we applied rigorous risk management processes to make sure schools re-opened safely and any concerns were well-managed. These included infection control, workforce pressures and addressing gaps in learning. We developed strong relationships with health contacts and partner authorities which have shaped the service’s risk management processes. In particular, the contact tracing aspect of managing positive cases among staff and pupils helped schools to refine and tighten arrangements such as timetabling, staggered breaks and lunches and communications to parents and carers. Despite this, cumulatively, there have been 27,532 pupil absences related to covid-19 since the start of term. In addition, in w/e 16 October 20 alone, we have 336 staff absences related to covid-19.

Knowing that with every increased contact the risk of infection increases, our School Operation Risk Toolkit (SORT) and Framework has operated within Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland guidance and has restricted all but essential activities to a minimum. Until specific guidance is published by Education Scotland for extra-curricular activities, we use the reopening of schools guidance which clearly indicates parameters in which we work. Limiting contacts has ensured that schools have been able to remain open despite infectious cases being present. However, we now have far greater workforce pressures due to covid-19 related absence, not all of which can be addressed through the Scottish Government funding for additional teachers.

Re-introducing additional school activities therefore requires us to continue the cautious risk management approach. The School Operations Risk Toolkit and Framework is contained as Appendix 1. It details the approaches taken to ensure careful and appropriate risk management is in place. Various guidance documents are produced which articulate to SORT. These include the extra-curricular guidance document also attached. The document provides the step-process by which school and sports leaders can check proposed activities. The ability to resume activities depends on several interrelated factors: ventilation, cleaning, the number of contacts the teacher/tutor/coach has had in the day/week, as well as the obvious benefits of the activity.

Safely resuming all school activities is everyone’s goal. However, maintaining educational delivery remains paramount and we cannot risk that by rushing to re-open groups, no matter how much they are desired. This is particularly important while the R number continues to rise.

We have significant planning well underway for incrementally re-introducing extra-curricular activity across the school. The gradual return to sport and a wide range of other non-sporting activities is aligned to the safe return to school for all staff and pupils and aims to minimise interaction between pupils and adults and to retain school grouping structures where possible.

Schools can supplement Council extra-curricular activities and SORT guidance with specific governing body or equivalent advice. However, this should not replace or undermine the guidance.

We’re following national guidance to ensure we maintain the highest possible standards of safety for our children and young people. The current position and principles regarding extra-curricular activities are that it is only permitted if it is:

  • essential for literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing.
  • important for the young person’s learning, development and wellbeing ie on a young person’s plan and can be justified using appropriate mitigations.
  • something that can safely re-start because the R number suggests it is safe to do so following relevant guidance.

We are considering further guidelines for extra-curricular activities based on the latest guidance from Scottish Government, industry bodies, national governing bodies, Education Scotland and members of the Education Recovery Group. As with all guidelines at present, we need to look at the overall scientific advice which is current and relevant.

The Council’s Sports Academy is a highly valued programme and, by its nature, each sport within it brings together pupils from several schools across the city. For this reason, it’s not currently suitable to restart the Sports Academy, but we’ll review this position along with other aspects of extra-curricular activities on an ongoing basis.

Planned next steps

Community youth work in community centres

We’re contacting all management committees immediately to ascertain:

  1. whether they wish to use their facility for the provision of youth work
  2. what assistance they require from the Council in order to do so
  3. that the management committee is confident that the youth work can be undertaken in line with Scottish Government guidance.

When we get this information, we will identify how many require assistance from the Council. If there is an increased cost to the Council to meet these requests, then we will need committee approval to authorise an increase in budget. If management committees can undertake re-stat youth work without the need for people or financial assistance from the Council, we will be able progress those quickly.

Libraries re-opening

The full-year cost increase of re-opening the first six libraries in September was approximately £200k per annum. We’re preparing plans to re-open the following libraries in line with the plan that was approved by Policy and Sustainability Committee on 6 August:

  • Drumbrae (north-west Edinburgh)
  • Craigmillar (north-east Edinburgh)
  • Wester Hailes (south-west Edinburgh), with a replacement of Currie Library if Wester Hailes cannot be safely re-opened due to the ongoing construction works at Westside Plaza.
  • Gilmerton (south-east Edinburgh).

Given that this next tranche of re-opening will cost a further £200k (approximately), this will require the approval of both Policy and Sustainability committee and Council. Prior to this being brought forward for committee approval (if applicable), we must consider the availability of FM teams to support existing operations, particularly in school settings, and make sure that the re-opening of the additional libraries will not present a risk to the priority of maintaining a fit for purpose cleansing regime in our schools.

Subject to approval, we’re working to an indicative opening date of 14 December, but this may vary for each library. We will provide greater clarity on opening dates closer to the time.

School facilities for extra-curricular activities

Subject to not needing additional FM resources – and therefore no additional budget increase – we’re developing plans to allow extra-curricular sporting activities to re-start in line with Scottish Government guidance.

We’ve reviewed the current position on extra-curricular activities and have drawn up proposals to re-introduce them incrementally after the October schools break. We’ve created a tool (see extra-curricular activities decision-making tree attached at appendix 2) which allows us to determine whether an activity can take place from 27 October.

We recommend that volunteers are not permitted to deliver or support any form of extra-curricular activity to support infection control procedures and our ability to track and trace.

We’ll review this position on 12 November. We’ll develop guidance to allow some Council-approved external providers to deliver extra-curricular activities in specific contexts which are explained in the decision-making tree. Schools and lifelong learning colleagues are permitted to deliver extra-curricular activities in approved contexts.

Reporting to committee

If there is a need for additional budget and FM resource, we’ll take this to the next available Policy and Sustainability Committee, along with any resource requirements to allow for youth work in community centres to re-start and the next tranche of libraries to re-open.

Briefing – Traffic Figures for Comiston Road following the Braid Road Closure.

Braid Road. Photo: Martin P. McAdam http://www.martinmcadam.com

Below is a briefing on traffic volumes on Comiston Road before and after the Braid Road closure. It was drafted by the Council in late September, but not shared with me(!). I only found out about it when a local resident raised some questions about the content!

Traffic Figures for Comiston Road
It is noted that traffic levels at Morningside Station are at, near or marginally above the levels seen pre-Covid. This is shown in the traffic levels dashboard collected weekly, the most recent available data is below.

This is supported by recent counts of the junction compared with counts carried out in 2018 which produce the following comparison showing that although levels of traffic at this location are currently above 2019 levels, they are below levels seen in January 2018 by around 5%.

 Morningside Station
Jan 2018 Avg Weekday Traffic16854
Sep 2020 Avg Weekday Traffic16067
Change-787
Change %-5%

It is likely that part of the reason Morningside Station has seen traffic return to roughly normal, while some other streets continue to see reduced levels of traffic, is due to the closure of Braid Road, diverting some traffic onto the A702.

Counts at Greenbank Crossroads suggest that the A702 corridor is seeing a slight increase in vehicle numbers. However, this increase is far smaller than the number of vehicles that have been removed from Braid Road, so overall levels of traffic in the vicinity are still notably less than they were pre-Covid.

 Comiston RoadBraid RoadOverall
Jan 2018 Avg Weekday Traffic15447.59485.524933
Sep 2020 Avg Weekday Traffic17063017063
Change1615.5-9485.5-7870
Change %10%-100%-32%

While traffic on Comiston Road is 10% higher than the pre-Covid baseline, 17,063 vehicles per day, compared with 15,448 vehicles per day, the increase on the A702 corridor is far smaller than the amount of traffic previously recorded using Braid Road; 9,486 vehicles per day.

The overall level of traffic on these two corridors is 32% less than pre-Covid levels. This means that the general level of traffic which has returned to these corridors (68% of pre-Covid) is less than the level across the city (80-90%), suggesting that the closure has achieved a level of traffic reduction/ evaporation.

It is considered to be a significant risk that re-opening Braid Road at this stage would induce additional journeys by car, thus adding to the overall level of traffic in the area.

However, there is also a risk that if traffic across the city returns to normal levels then traffic on Comiston Road may continue to grow, possibly increasing public transport journey times and reducing air quality. Therefore, traffic levels will continue to be monitored at Morningside Station and Greenbank Junction and will inform decisions relating to existing and proposed interventions. We will also continue to liaise closely with Lothian Buses on a regular basis regarding the impact of the Braid Road closure on bus routes on the A702 corridor.

The completion of roadworks on the A701 has reduced the impact of diverted traffic and modifications to the traffic lights at the junctions of Greenbank Crescent and Greenbank Drive should improve the junction efficiency, mitigating the impact on bus journey times and reducing queueing times for all vehicles.

The road closure at Braid Road and introduction of a one-way street (except cyclists) on Braidburn Terrace has significantly reduced through traffic in the Hermitage Drive/ Braid Avenue/Midmar Drive area.

The development of the proposed Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Connection will consider feedback from local residents and Elected Members. Ongoing reviews of the current Braid Road closure will also consider any negative impact on the Comiston Road corridor and local residential areas. The final decision for this proposed scheme will be considered in the round taking account of any impacts holistically.

At its southern end the Quiet Route will run along Hermitage Drive between Braid Road and Hermitage Gardens. With Braid Road closed this link is lightly trafficked, however, were Braid Road opened this might require further intervention to ensure it was safe. 

The Quiet Connection has been designed to cut out ‘rat-running’ traffic from streets between Cluny Gardens and Comiston Road with strategic closures. This would include diagonal closures, continuing to allow access for local traffic and services, at the junctions of Braid Road and Braid Crescent, and the junction of Cluny Drive and Hermitage Gardens, as well as a modal filter on Braid Avenue. If Braid Road remains closed, these further closures would effectively eliminate through traffic cutting through residential streets between Cluny Gardens and Comiston Road, whilst allowing local access to both roads.

In addition, as part of the Braid Road, Road Safety Improvement Scheme, significant resurfacing from the Braid Hills Road junction to a point near Hermitage of Braid will now begin on 12 October for a period of three weeks and will, principally, take place within the existing road closure although restrictions about Braid Farm Road and Braid Hills Road will also be required. A further area of resurfacing at the junction of Braid Road and Cluny Gardens, being co-ordinated with SGN works, has also been rescheduled to begin on 21 September 2020 for a period of three weeks.

As previously stated, traffic levels will continue to be monitored to ensure that any potentially negative impacts of interventions can be considered and dealt with whilst also taking into account the benefits that the holistic approach to managing traffic in the area will realise.

Next Steps
The review of the current closure on Braid Road is continuing and further traffic counts will take place to assess both the continuing traffic levels on Comiston Road, and the level of cycle and pedestrian use of Braid Road.