The City of Edinburgh Council has said it wants to introduce a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) in East Craigs.
This is how they announced it: “We will be implementing a series of temporary measures in the East Craigs area of the city over the coming weeks to help people walk, cycle and wheel safely, including segregated cycle lanes, closing roads to ‘through’ traffic and a bus gate. These interventions will add to temporary measures put in place across the city since May to support safe physical distancing.
“LTNs reduce the impact of motor traffic on neighbourhoods, creating people-friendly spaces and encouraging physical activity by limiting through traffic on designated streets, while maintaining local access.”
It seems that they have some persuading to do if tonight’s public meeting is anything to go by. There were some ugly comments from the crowd as the Transport Convener tried to explain to them how it had come about.
Following a leafletting campaign initiated by Liberal Democrat MSP, Alex Cole-Hamilton this week, hundreds of people turned up at Gyle Park to hear the local politicians speak as well as Cllr Lesley Macinnes who attended the meeting with two council officers who specialise in this kind of work. She faced an uphill struggle.
One member of the audience called her a liar, and she had to battle against boos and jeers from the assembled crowd who were overwhelmingly against the plans.
Politicians of other parties also attended, Mark Brown (Cons), Robert Aldridge(Liberal Democrat) Kevin Lang (Liberal Democrat) Christine Jardine MP (Liberal Democrat) and Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP (Liberal Democrat).
Mr Aldridge said they did not necessarily oppose the plans, and that they are supportive of the Covid-19 emergency measures, but he said: “When it comes to something as far reaching as these proposals which are before us today, then they should go through a full consultation process, be designed with the community and for the community so that they work for the community in the medium and long term. We should not be using Covid-19 measures as an excuse to bypass the normal democratic process.”
Cllr Mark Brown said: “The amount of public opposition to these plans is absolutely clear. The council has brought forward substantial changes to the East Craigs area despite all other local politicians views. I am not necessarily opposed to the principle but simply the strategy for implementing the plans.”
Alex Cole-Hamilton said it is understandable in a time of crisis like this that ‘mistakes are being made’. He continued: “I’ve never seen such a catalogue of mistakes as I believe these changes to be. I understand that the Scottish Government wanted the Covid money to be spent very quickly, and that they needed to circumvent consultation, but that was because the traffic profile during lockdown was virtually nil. They wanted to get things done as quickly as possible, but things have changed.” He asked for a show of hands from the audience to establish who lived in the area affected by the proposals and that proved there was a majority of people attending who lived locally.
Lesley Macinnes said she was pleased to have the opportunity to speak to everyone attending the meeting, but she also tried to explain the process by which the plans are being introduced.
She said: “A lot of the work we are doing on the streets is around safe passage to school or spaces for people to exercise, as well as the two segregatedcycle lanes to hospitals. We live in fear of a return to Covid-19 and that is why we are continuing with our Spaces for People measures so that people have enough room to move around. And we want to see the benefits being enjoyed early in the lockdown when far more people were out exercising. As people return to work, we want safe passage for them too.”
I spoke to one supporter in the crowd who was firmly of the view that a Low Traffic Neighbourhood would only benefit this part of the city, but Cllr Macinnes had said to the crowd that she had been contacted by some supporters who were simply too scared to come to the meeting tonight.
As I was leaving I spoke to one couple who said they were opposed to the plans, and they confirmed that they had not made any comments on the council’s proposals under the Covid-19 emergency proposals. This is the Commonplace tool where over 4,000 made comments on their areas of Edinburgh. They said to me that they were completely unaware of it, but they absolutely object to the plans for the LTN which they believe will increase traffic and pollution on major roads.