Edinburgh’s 100 seat buses are falling short.

Bus space

I was assured that both a buggy and wheelchair could fit in the bus within a “shared space”, but mum/dad would have to sit across the aisle – not ideal, but a reasonable compromise.

Last November I had an article in the Evening News about the accessibility of Edinburgh’s new 100 seat buses. The key issue I raised was that, unlike much of Lothian Buses’ fleet, it was reported that these buses could not accommodate a buggy and wheelchair at the same time.

Following this, I met with Richard Hall (Lothian Buses MD) in December at the formal launch of these buses.  We discussed the many benefits of them, and I was assured that both a buggy and wheelchair could fit in the bus within a “shared space”, but mum/dad would have to sit across the aisle – not ideal, but a reasonable compromise.

Since the buses became operational, however, I have been made aware of three key accessibility issues:

  1. A buggy and wheelchair cannot fit in the shared space together (there is even a petition on this).
  2. The luggage area is small, and many folded bugged don’t fit there.
  3. The middle exit door does not lower to the same extent as the front doors on other buses.

On Friday, I went over these points in a constructive discussion with Lothian Buses. I also discussed their use of second hand buses from London as these also can’t accommodate a buggy and wheelchair together. During the discussion we agreed on a great deal – particularly environmental credentials of these buses and the excellent service Lothian Buses provides. However, they were unwilling to give any ground on the accessibility of these buses. They still say that the 100 seat buses can take a buggy and  wheelchair, but now qualify that to say not every buggy will fit.

I made the point that the fundamental problem here is that Lothian Buses did not consult users as part of the design process for these buses. Although they don’t have to consult anyone, I think involving customers in the design of a service can only be a good thing. The Council actually has an “Active Travel Forum” which could have provided feedback. As good as these buses are, I think they could be better.

Since 2016 the city has been planning for an additional 47,000 people by 2024, and an additional 102,000 by 2039, taking the total population from 492,610 to 594,712 over the 25-year period from 2014 to 2039. The question is how we accommodate this growth, and it can’t be done by expecting everyone to drive around our capital – public transport has to be attractive and accessible. We have one of the UK’s best bus services, but it needs to improve. It needs to be world class, but these buses don’t quite meet that standard.

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No other city would contemplate converting West Princes Street Gardens in to a “Hollywood Bowl”, so why should we?

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No other city would contemplate converting West Princes Street Gardens in to a “Hollywood Bowl”, so why should we? Would such a thing be contemplated on Washington’s National Mall (left) or Paris’s Parc du Champ-de-Mars (centre)?

I am hugely proud that Edinburgh attracts tourists from around the world. Part of what attracts them to our city is our fantastic green spaces. Everything from Holyrood Park and West Princes Street Gardens to the many more humble public parks (like those in my Ward) are part of why Country Living recently awarded Edinburgh the status of the UK’s “Greenest City” .

That’s why I was so concerned to read that Glasgow’s DF Concerts thinks Princes Street Gardens could become “Scotland’s answer to the Hollywood Bowl” and urged Edinburgh to look at New York’s Central Park because it has “loads of events”, saying cities like Edinburgh need to “utilise their assets” better.

The basis of this approach appears to be that West Princes Street Gardens is a commodity which should again be encircled by barriers so it can be exploited.  If this is the  approach, it shows no awareness of the history of Edinburgh’s  West Princes Street Gardens.

In the early 19th century West Princes Street Gardens was accessed by subscription only, and was only open to the general public for free two days per year. In 1876 the city took ownership of the gardens for the public to use free of charge.

These gardens and their position below Edinburgh Castle are part of what defines our capital. No other city would contemplate converting this to a “Hollywood Bowl”, so why should we? Would such a thing be contemplated on Washington’s National Mall or Paris’s Parc du Champ-de-Mars? Events have a place on these spaces, but first and foremost they are there for the public to enjoy.

Indeed, comparing  West Princes Street Gardens to the Hollywood Bowl and Central Park is misleading.  Hollywood Bowl is actually in the hills outside Hollywood, and events take up a tiny part of Central Park’s 315 hectares (West Princes Street Gardens can fit in to it 26 times).

I agree that cities like Edinburgh need to “utilise their assets” more, but I also feel that we have to value our public spaces more and not forget the rich inheritance our city ancestors gave us.

 

Is AirBnB Part of Edinburgh’s Homelessness Problem?

SPICe_2019_Housing_Airbnb_Number-of-airbnbs

Note – not all registrations are necessarily active. AirBnB data from SPICEe.  

A lot has been said recently about the plan to complete the tramline to Newhaven. Whilst the Council’s decision to fund the completion of the tramline made the news, less has been said in the media about another key decision made that day.

My colleague, Councillor Mandy Watt, brought forward a motion asking the Council to use all its powers to end the use of “B&B” accommodation to house homeless individuals and families (often escaping domestic abuse). Let me be clear, many of these properties are not fit for human habitation – there have been reports of bugs in beds and blood on walls.

Indeed, although Scotland’s Councils breached unsuitable temporary accommodation (UTA) orders 750 times in just 12 months, 70% of these cases were in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh has around 4,000 people presenting as homeless per year, and the Council has a duty to place them in “temporary” accommodation until a home can be found. As a last resort, the council will fall back on B&Bs.

In February it was revealed that the Council has spent £28.1m to meet an increased demand for B&B accommodation since 2016. In 2018 alone, the Council spent £11.7m on temporary accommodation for homeless people – including £6.4m to one provider. This is money that should be being used to build homes.

I don’t know what the solution is, but it’s clear that we have to tackle the causes of homelessness. This ranges from welfare reform to domestic abuse and relationship breakdowns.

A particular issue in Edinburgh is the tourist economy. Whilst it has many positives, and I am proud that our city attracts people from around the world, it is now estimated that there are 12,000 AirBnB registrations in our Capital, and there have been many reports of people being made homeless to create them. I therefore hope that Cllr Watt’s motion will put added pressure on the Scottish Government to give Edinburgh the powers it needs to better regulate AirBnB type lets.

Briefing – Scottish Water’s work in the Pentland Hills

 

Below is a briefing from Scottish Water regarding the work they are undertaking in the Pentland Hills along the southern part of my Ward. I spoke to them specifically about the damage done to the habitat along the verge on Torduff Road (left). They say the verge is co-owned by the Council and a private landowner, with the former owning the strip along the edge of the road. The private landlord would not allow the pipeline to be placed to the south of the hedgerow (s/he is considering installing a solar farm), so it has to go along the verge/road to the north. They have given a clear commitment to replant the area once the work is complete.  

 

PROJECT MAKING EDINBURGH’S WATER SUPPLY MORE RESILIENT THIRD WAY THROUGH

A £20 million project to make the drinking water network in the city and beyond more resilient is more than a third complete.

Scottish Water has installed just over 4 km – out of total 12 km – of brand new mains in the southern part of the city which supplies much of Edinburgh and parts of West Lothian.

The investment will allow customers to be supplied from two different locations – Glencorse and Marchbank Water Treatment Works – making it less likely that they are left without water.

The extended network will also have the capacity to link to other existing and future water supplies across parts of the south of Scotland. It will ensure Scottish Water can provide its customers in Scotland’s capital city, including a growing number of households and businesses, supplied with fresh water around the clock.

The network expansion across part of the Pentland Hills – some of it visible from the city bypass and the A702 near Hillend –  and has included working in areas where World War One training trenches were constructed. Work is also being carried out in part of the Swanston Conservation Area where any work taking place in April and July must requires extra care and consideration due to lambing season and ground nesting birds.

There are a number of burns and streams which run nearby the planned route and all the work being carried out in these areas will take account of salmon spawning season, which Scottish Water continues to liaise with SEPA about.

Within the Pentland Hills Regional Park, Dreghorn Woods has been designated by Woodland Trust Scotland as a First World War Centenary Wood. The park must be kept open to the public at all times during construction and measures have been taken to allow the public continued access to the park.

Park users have praised the Scottish Water and our Alliance Partner Caledonia Water Alliance (CWA) – which is carrying out the work – for the care and attention taken to keep access open in areas where pipes are being laid. Mrs Gillian Brydon, a local businesswoman, got in touch with Scottish Water to say she was “delighted” the route she walked with her dog remained open despite pipes being laid there.

Mrs Brydon, of Edinburgh, uses the route at least three times a week to walk her five-year-old Collie-Labrador cross, Poppy, who is a specially trained search and rescue dog. She commented: “Everywhere the team are working, they make sure metal gates are put up to keep as much access as possible. It is clear they are thinking about people who use the area – dog walkers like me, walkers, runners, cyclists – and it means we can still do our favourite walks. I think this is very much appreciated by everyone who uses the area.”

Another Edinburgh resident, who owns horses in the Swanston area, also praised the delivery team for ensuring the temporary signs and notices put up in the area were secure and did not move or flap about creating noises which could frighten the horses.

The work includes single and twin pipes – all of which are bright blue and visible on areas of land across the area – being laid to connect Marchbank Water Treatment Works near Balerno and Glencorse Water Treatment Works, south of the city.

It is hoped the pipework will be completed by the end of summer after which the area will be reinstated with the work due to be completed by the end of the year.

One of the biggest challenges for the team on the ground has been working under the High Voltage Powerlines which cross and follow much of the route of the pipeline. As a result of this CWA arranged overhead cable posts to be setup along the working area as required and height restrictors were also fitted to machinery used on site to minimise the risk of any overhead cable strikes while construction works are underway.

Project Manager James Kerr, of CWA, said: “We are making good progress with pipe laying activities and are working closely with people who live, work or visit the areas where we are working and make every effort to cause as little disruption as possible.  We also recognise that this project comprises a significant investment in the ongoing strategic objectives developed by Scottish Water to provide security of supply to customers both locally and further afield.

“One example of this is how many walkers in the area have been interacting with teams on site and have said they are pleased the work has not restricted their activities due to the amount of crossing points we have put in alongside the pipeline.”

Scottish Water has liaised extensively with landowners and businesses as well as a range of organisations including Pentland Hills Regional Park and Edinburgh City Council. One example is how the utility has worked with Bonaly Primary School to ensure disruption, including noise or heavy load traffic, is kept to a minimum during busy periods.

Scottish Water’s Director of Capital Investment, Mark Dickson, said: “This major investment will make the drinking water supply in Scotland’s capital and a number of areas nearby far more resilient. Any interruption to the drinking water supply can significantly impact our customers and this project should help minimise this.”

“From the outset we have been mindful of the number of people impacted by this – including landowners, local businesses and walkers – and thank everyone for their patience and understanding while work is carried out.”

More than 170,000 people – residents and businesses – in Edinburgh and West Lothian will benefit from this investment of in their drinking water network.

Scottish Water is committed to minimising disruption and will keep residents, businesses, landowners and land users – including hill walkers using the Pentland Hills – notified of where the work is being carried out and any diversions in place.

This project is over and above a £29.5 million investment programme of works by Scottish Water to improve Edinburgh’s water and wastewater systems.

Marchbank Water Treatment Works takes water from Megget Reservoir – 28 miles away in the Borders – and makes it safe for our customers to use. It uses an ultramodern Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) process which allows raw water to be treated to a much better standard.

Glencorse Water Treatment Works supplies water to up to 450,000 customers across Edinburgh and parts of Midlothian, with the capacity to provide up to 175 million litres of water every day.

Ding-Ding – The Proposal to Complete Edinburgh’s Tramline to Newhaven has been approved.

 

Since 2016 our capital has been planning for an additional 47,000 people by 2024, and an additional 102,000 by 2039 – taking the total population to 594,712.

This is a breath-taking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems and new dangers. Key amongst the challenges is housing and transport – our city is already congested and polluted, and nobody wants to build more homes on our greenbelt.

Key to solving this problem is making former industrial sites in the north of Edinburgh more attractive to developers by connecting them to employment opportunities in the City Centre, Edinburgh Park and the Airport. This is the aim at the heart of why Edinburgh’s Councillors recently agreed to use the profits from Edinburgh’s publicly owned tram and bus service to complete the tramline to Newhaven.

With an estimated cost of £207.3m, however, it was not easy for me to back the proposal despite the fact that £1.40 of benefits are expected for every £1 spent on the project. I was surrounded by people who either absolutely supported the project or absolutely opposed it, whilst I was somewhere in the middle.  As with many things in life, many of those with the strongest views appeared to be the least well informed.

Although I understood the benefits the project could deliver, my concerns were quite wide ranging: (1) The Tram Inquiry has not yet reported; (2) The Environmental Impact Assessment dates back to 2003; (3) The risks associated with Brexit and a second Independence Referendum  have not been explicitly considered despite being noted as a concern in earlier reports; and, (4) The impact on Lothian Buses.

Although I had these concerns, it was clear to me that there is a need to cut congestion and stimulate development in the north of Edinburgh, and right now completing the tramline to Newhaven appears to be the best way of doing that.  I say that accepting that the £207.3m target price has a 1 in 5 chance of being exceeded, but in the knowledge that the Council has a £50m contingency in place if needed.

 

More of my thoughts on the tram project can be found here.

Shooting For the Moon – Thoughts on Taking the Trams to Newhaven in a Binary Political World

TRam Leith Walk

Shooting for the Moon – Trams have been on Leith Walk before.

Below are my current views, thoughts and concerns on the plan to complete the tramline to Newhaven – the “Newhaven Proposal”.  I am not expecting everyone to agree with me, but I hope people will respect the fact that I have thought about it before reaching a view. 

 

We apparently live in a binary world. People are Yes or No. They are Leave or Remain. In Edinburgh, they are either for or against completing the tramline to Newhaven.

The reality is different, however. Just like on many other binary arguments, most people are stuck in the middle between hardcore “extremists” on the tram debate. On one side we have people that want to extend the line at any cost, and on the other we have those that oppose it ideologically no matter what the benefits. For those groups, it’s an easy decision and those that oppose them just don’t get it. I actually envy their certainty.

That’s why it’s worth looking at the Final Business Case (FBC) prepared by the Council on extending the tram. It makes the case for the project, but it does so in a way that acknowledges the uncertainties and risks. It makes clear that what is needed is a considered judgment, not a knee-jerk decision.

The headline cost is £207.3m – this includes the Capital costs to completion (£156.7m), Support for business (£1.9m), Development costs (£5.5m), Risk (£31.9m) and Optimism Bias (£11.9m). It is acknowledged, however, that there is a 20% chance that the project costs will exceed £207.3m. Indeed, a more conservative approach to assessing the potential for the project to go over budget suggests there is 20% chance of the project costs exceeding £257.3m(!), and a 5% chance of it exceeding £334.8m(!!).

The Council Officers should be congratulated for presenting the costs in this way. They have chosen not to simply put a price ticket on it, but instead have sought to communicate the uncertainty in a responsible manner. The clear aim is to deliver the project for £207.3m, but their approach is clear that there is a 1 in 5 chance of a cost overrun.

Nonetheless, even if the project does hit £257.3m it is still estimated to deliver £1.25 of benefit for every £1 spent – i.e. a Benefit-Cost Ratio (BCR) of 1.25 . If the final cost is £207.3m, the BCR is 1.4. Whilst this is positive, a BCR of 1.25-1.4 is technically “low value for money“.

image

Sunk Cost – Work undertaken on Leith Walk 2007-14 should have reduced the cost of the Newhaven Proposal

Although it is hard to compare the proposal with other projects as a lot of work had already been undertaken on the extension route (2007-14), it is in line with other light rail/tram projects such as Nottingham Express Transit Extension (BCR = 2), Leeds Supertram (BCR = 2.0), Sydney Light Rail (BCR = 0.8),  Newcastle (Australia, BCR = 0.5), Forrestfield Airport Link (BCR = 1.4 ) and ACT Capital Metro (BCR = 0.5).

With all the focus on costs, it is important to remember that this project will deliver significant benefits. Leith is one of the most densely populated and deprived areas in Scotland and it is already congested. Making it easier to move people around is key to developing brownfield sites in northern Edinburgh. The tram will link these key development sites with key employment areas (City Centre, Edinburgh Park and the Airport). Let me be clear, developing these brownfield sites in north Edinburgh will take pressure off the greenbelt in my Ward (Colinton-Oxgangs-Fairmilehead).

Since 2016 the city has been planning for an additional 47,000 people by 2024, and an additional 102,000 by 2039, taking the total population from 492,610 to 594,712 over the 25-year period from 2014 to 2039.

This is a breath-taking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems and new dangers. So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But our city was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them.

The question is how we accommodate this growth, and it can’t be done by expecting everyone to drive around our capital. We have one of the UK’s best bus services, but is needs to improve. In parallel, we need to improve safety for those that are able to travel by foot and bike – particularly for children going to school. We can and must do all these things, but the FBC makes the case for the tram being the best way to add capacity for the congested route to Newhaven.  Without it, the FBC is clear that congestion and pollution will constrain economic development.

Ed Tram 1950

Back to the Future – The Edinburgh Tram Network in 1950.

Whilst these arguments hold water, the Edinburgh Tram has a troubled history. We once had an excellent network (many buses cover the same routes today), but the most recent incarnation has been a national embarrassment. A mixture of schoolboy errors and poor governance structures led to Edinburgh getting a fraction of the expected line at a much higher cost (from £375 million to the final £776m) than was ever feared.  As a result, in 2014 the SNP Government set up the Hardie Inquiry in to the shambles, with Alex Salmond claiming with his customary bravado it would be “swift and thorough and would cost an estimated £1m. Almost 5 years later it has still to report, and the costs look likely to exceed the £10.2m the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War cost. All this may well be legitimate, but it feels like insult is being added to injury.

2011

The 2007-14 Edinburgh Tram fiasco means the public are very wary of spending more money on the line. If the Newhaven  Proposal is approved, it will have to succeed if we are ever to have more lines.

The monumental disaster we witnessed on our streets between July 2007 and May 2014 has three direct impacts on the proposal to complete the line to Newhaven:

  1. The public lost trust in the Council. This means that the Newhaven Proposal has come under significant scrutiny by a sceptical public and a new intake of Councillors. Whilst the Tram Team has welcomed the feedback, it is notable that other larger items of expenditure are subject to a far lower level of scrutiny (e.g. I have seen no questions about the £874.112m planned spend on Council Housing in Edinburgh over the next 5 years, or the £200m the Council plans to invest in schools).
  2. Lesson were learned by the Council. Unlike the 2007 project, the Newhaven Proposal will use standard contracts, the project team will have light rail experience, roads will only be closed once, robust quantitative risk analysis has been undertaken and there has been significant community engagement. It is important to note that Turner & Townsend was appointed by Edinburgh City Council to manage the project after Transport Initiatives Edinburgh was disbanded in August 2011, and after the 2012 Council elections a Labour led Council replaced the SNP/LibDem Coalition – this meant political control of the project fell to Councillor Lesley Hinds (not a passive character). Not only did she demand that the Scottish Government allow concessionary tram travel for Edinburgh’s older citizens, she had oversight of the project whilst it continued mostly on schedule and budget. Although Lesley Hinds has retired, the core Tram Team she worked with 2012-14 is behind the Newhaven Proposal and the FBC.
  3. Safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists are now better understood. There has been a great deal of focus on improving safety along the existing line, and those lessons have been reflected in the Newhaven Proposal. It is notable that there has been significant constructive engagement with Community Councils, Ward Councillors, Living Streets Edinburgh and SPOKES about the detailed design of the public areas around the route. Whilst I don’t expect any of these groups are absolutely happy, I think all will agree there have been significant improvements over the original proposals (I was clear that I could not support these).

Although the case for backing the Newhaven Proposal does, on balance, have some merit I do still have concerns, and these are detailed below.

  1. Optimism Bias – Although the people behind big projects are highly rational and logical, it is recognised that the human brain is sometimes too optimistic for its own good – something we all suffer from at times! To counter this, a 6% “Optimism Bias” has been added to the project. Although this equates to £11.9m, it is at the very bottom of the 6%-66% range recommended for “Non-standard Civil Engineering” projects. It is argued that this is because the project is at an advanced stage and many lessons have been learned from the 2007-14 debacle. However, there are two significant unknowns that could have real impact on the project: the “swift and thorough” Hardie Inquiry recommendations; and, the ongoing Brexit shambles.
    Although the Hardie Inquiry  are recommendations considered in the FBC as an unknown cost, there is no mention of Brexit. An earlier version of the FBC (AKA the Outline Business Case) made this comment: “…there is a risk that uncontrollable economic and market factors adversely affect the type, structure and overall cost of borrowing the Council is able to gain access to. Two significant events that are likely to be a factor in this are the impact of Brexit and the announcement and timing of any potential second Scottish Independence Referendum.” In a review of the FBC for the Council, Scott-Moncreiff say the Tram Team “has excluded uncertainty surrounding Brexit from its Quantitative Risk Analysis over the construction costs and the potential impact of Brexit has not specifically been referred to within the FBC or financial model.”.
  2. Sensitivity Analysis – The FBC considers the “sensitivity” of the project finances, by varying key parameters (such as travel time and economic development) and assessing the impact on the BCR. The analysis, as presented, only varies these parameters one at a time in simple “what if” scenarios and does not consider outcomes where two or more parameters vary. Scott-Moncreiff  made this comment: “We note that the FBC analyses the sensitivity of each of these components individually, and does not consider the cumulative impact of more than one of these components.
  3. Environmental Impact Statement – This apparently has not been updated since 2003 and the FBC makes the point that earlier work “implicitly suggests” that there were no “unacceptable” environmental impacts. This is hardly reassuring.
  4. Strategic Support – The project is of strategic importance to Scotland’s capital and the wider region, yet the Council is expected to fund it with no support from the Scottish Government. Additionally, Transport Scotland have made no comment on the FBC (nor has comment been sought). I find this highly questionable, particularly when this is seen within the context of the £125m the Scottish Government gave the Council (without it even asking) in the City Deal to upgrade Sheriffhall Roundabout.
  5. Lothian Buses – The £207.3m for the project will be funded by ticket income from the new/existing line and a £20m (£2m per year for 10 years) exceptional dividend from Lothian Buses. There is concern that the impact of paying the exceptional dividend combined with losing passenger income along the Newhaven line will place undue pressure on Lothian Buses.
  6. Alternative Projects – Although it should be noted that the Newhaven Proposal should put no demand on existing council budgets, it is true that the ticket income and exceptional dividend could be spent in other ways with the aim of delivering similar benefits, perhaps on a wider scale. The aim of this project appears to  have been focused on extending the line, rather than delivering the benefits associated with it.

Conclusion
In summation, I hope I have shown the project does have significant benefits and a degree of uncertainty associated with it, but how those are balanced is tainted by the 2007-11 segment of the 2007-14 project. What is clear, however, is that there is a need to cut congestion and stimulate development in the north of Edinburgh, and right now completing the tramline to Newhaven appears to be the best way of doing that.  I say that accepting that the £207.3m target price (BCR = 1.4)  has a 1 in 5 chance of being exceeded, but in the knowledge that the Council has a £50m contingency in place if needed (BCR = 1.25).

Note
The full set of CEC papers on the Newhaven Proposal are here.

Scottish Tourist Guides Association Briefing on Edinburgh’s Public Toilets

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Below is a briefing from the Scottish Tourist Guides Association on the important part public toilets play in Edinburgh’s tourist economy.  After the threat Colinton’s public toilets faced this year, I feel the we should use the Tourist Tax income to help protect (and improve) them. 

FOR THE ATTENTION OF ALL MEMBERS OF THE CITY OF EDINBURGH COUNCIL

 I am writing on behalf of the Edinburgh and SE Scotland Branch of the Scottish Tourist Guides Association (STGA). As Blue Badge guides, we work with many hundreds of tourists, guiding them around Edinburgh and  Scotland. We enjoy showing off Edinburgh to local and foreign visitors. However our work is being seriously affected by the lack of suitable toilet facilities for our clients. As the Capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is sometimes the only place visitors experience in depth, and hence this issue affects all professional guides. We believe City of Edinburgh Council must take a lead in this matter in order to avoid negative feedback  from all tourists in Scotland.

We understand current provision is not under threat, but that a Planning and maintenance Meeting on 28th February may decide to reduce hours, staffing or maintenance. We believe even in times of reduced budgets this would be very detrimental to what the Scottish Government has identified as a growth sector contributing around  £6 billion pounds to our GDP.

The Council has provided a useful map for the facilities which do exist, and this includes disabled provision, and a Community Toilet Scheme, which we understand is unlikely to continue due to budget restrictions. Our issue is with groups of up to 50 clients who come by coach, after a long journey, are often elderly and cannot walk far. With up to 6 cruise ships coming in to the Edinburgh area in one day (and this may even increase as plans to bring ships into East Lothian progress) there are insufficient places where coaches can drop off and pick up with a large number of toilets nearby. We have researched this, largely because Holyrood Palace no longer allow photo and toilet stops unless visitors are entering the Palace. (Both the National Museum of Scotland and the Botanic Gardens do have suitable provision, but neither is ideal.) We are also ensuring clients that bring groups of visitors allow for extra time in their programmes.

A House of Commons Green Paper in 2008  recommended that local authorities take a strategic approach to toilet provision, and we believe this would help identify gaps in provision which could be addressed. The strategy could also take into account issues like night access for the homeless, provision by other Lothian Councils and the current or future Community Access Scheme. It might identify this as a national issue, rather an Edinburgh one only. Finally, If the Tourist Tax comes into effect, it should provide justification for spend on toilets.

In the short term at least, we request that consideration of the problem at a strategic level be given at the upcoming meeting, and that you and your fellow Councillors understand and input to an issue that will increasingly affect the public.

The Edinburgh Branch of the STGA would be happy to be involved in whatever way we can to ensure our clients are provided for, and continue to praise our City.

We look forward to your consideration and response.

Yours faithfully,

 

June Allison Edgar, B.Sc., M.B.A.

Blue Badge Guide to Scotland