Latest Spaces for People representation lodged with City of Edinburgh Council

Earlier this evening Leith Links Community Council submitted a further representation to City of Edinburgh Council regarding its Spaces for People programme.

The submission to City of Edinburgh Councils Transport and Environment Committee, and Leith Ward Councillors Booth, McVey and Munro has been made ahead of its meeting due to be held on Thursday 12 November 2020 from 10am. Click here to watch the meeting live on the internet and read the papers for the meeting.

Commenting on the submission Community Councillor Sally Millar said;

It does not seem right that decisions are being made about our area without consulting local people. And if the council really has monitored traffic and done impact assessments, then where are the data?


Submission:

 

Councillors

Leith Links Community Council (LLCC) is hereby writing to supplement its earlier motion regarding the closure of Links Gardens with an update.

The local community is divided on the matter of the closure under the Spaces for People programme, and the Community Council itself does not have a fixed position on it.

The one thing that everyone can agree on, however, is that the city council needs to publicly share the data, evidence and analysis behind its decisions. This should presumably include environmental and economic impact assessments, disability impact assessments, road safety audits.

We think that we have behaved respectfully and responsibly as a Community Council and as a community by NOT doing what other areas of the city have done i.e. complain to the Evening News, and Edinburgh Live, organise hostile public meetings etc. In return, we think that at the very least we deserve the courtesy of two-way communication and proper consultation.

However, it appears that that request is being ignored. There has been no apparent attempt on the part of the council at meaningful consultation, no sharing of information, and no sign of any willingness to demonstrate flexibility in the light of the knock-on effect of traffic issues elsewhere in Leith, caused in part by the various road closures arising from the Trams to Newhaven extension.

The papers for tomorrow’s Transport and Environment committee meeting make it seem that a decision has already been reached in advance of any discussion. It says that a ‘review’ has been undertaken and that the council will ‘continue to monitor traffic impact…’

We would like a clear answer to the following questions

  • What has this ‘review’ consisted of? (And why has it not been done publicly or in consultation with local groups?)
  • What monitoring has been done so far?
  • Who did it? What were the findings, and where are these published?
  • Where is the data and the evidence gleaned from this monitoring, when was it carried out, and when will it be made public (should it not be made public before deciding this matter?)
  • And exactly what monitoring will the council continue to do in this area?

I include below a number of points that strengthen the case for a full review and consultation.

LLCC’s original motion, passed at its August meeting and submitted to CEC, stated:

“Due to excessive local traffic congestion, with concomitant air pollution and danger to pedestrians and cyclists, Leith Links Community Council proposes that a review is needed of the closure of Links Gardens and of the working of the redesigned junction at the foot of Easter Road. This should be carried out in the context of all the other nearby road closures, roadworks, and diversions affecting traffic across Leith, and should include full consultation with local residents and businesses.”

Since then:

1. Members of the local community have signed petitions to express their views.

Currently the number in favour of reopening Links Gardens stands at 1,321 – https://www.change.org/p/adam-mcvey-edinburgh-gov-uk-links-gardens-road-closure

The number backing the opposing position (i.e. wanting to keep the road closed) stands at 206.

– https://www.change.org/p/city-of-edinburgh-council-keep-links-gardens-closed –

2. There have been several occasions when an emergency vehicle has been unable to get through the junction at Easter Road for many minutes, due to traffic congestion at the junction which is often to be seen backing up down the road in all directions.

There have also been two separate incidents recently where an emergency vehicle (an ambulance in October when an elderly person collapsed on the Links, and then a fire engine on 6 November, to attend a call from Great Michael/ Links House) have tried to respond to emergency calls in Links Gardens and have failed to gain access, which extended their response time significantly as they had to do three-point turns and then take a long diversion. (Photographic evidence is available of all of these incidents.)

3. Local residents have complained about the serious damage being done to the fabric of surrounding streets, due to the heavy traffic they are experiencing. For example –

“Does anyone have an email address to request pot hole repairs? I know it’s unlikely I’ll get anywhere but the state of Elbe Street, Cadiz Street and Assembly Street is atrocious at the moment. Those cobbled streets weren’t made for traffic, never mind the amount of traffic due to the closure of Links Gardens and the heavy machinery coming through for the tram works. It’s beyond pot holes now, it’s big sections of cobbles ripped up and huge areas that are so uneven that cars scrape when you go over them.”

In summary, LLCC believes this area – hugely impacted by the ongoing tram works – is not receiving the attention it is due at a strategic level. And we believe the council should redouble its efforts to be open and transparent and, as a matter of urgency, to explain and justify their decisions backed up by evidence, data, and a detailed understanding of what is actually happening on the ground.

 

Yours sincerely,

Sally Millar

Secretary, Leith Links Community Council

PS, pasted below, for reference and as a reminder, is the recent correspondence between a group of Leith Links residents (its 21 signatories also shared their letter with city councillors among others) and LLCC.


Letter of 23/10/20 from 21 citizens to Leith Links Community Council (please note that the citizens names have been removed to protect their privacy)

23.10.20

Dear community council,

As local residents who walk our area a number of times daily, often with children of varying ages, we would like to comment on your recent motion regarding the closure of Links Gardens and the Lochend & Easter Road junction. We believe a review of both measures is welcome and appropriate and are therefore grateful for your initiative on this matter.

We want to add our voice to ensure any review has safe, healthy and efficient walking for all ages and abilities as its first priority, followed by cycling and public transport. We appreciate there is some local concern about traffic congestion, which appears echoed in your motion, but we strongly feel any review of our local areas street and public space layout ought to follow the widely accepted transport hierarchy and hence with promote alternatives to the car. Sadly, in too many areas and at too many times, our neighbourhood remains unsafe for children and other more vulnerable residents. Dangerous driving, rat running, speeding and parking irresponsibly all pose huge daily risks to our communities and ought to be addressed urgently.

Firstly, we remain sceptical re-opening Links Gardens and a change to the junction will result in a sudden disappearance of all or even a significant reduction in congestion. The issue remains a too high number of cars and, as many examples from around the world have shown, adding more car lanes or new streets never results in less congestion as more car lanes attract more cars. Congestion is only reduced by reducing demand and offering alternatives. We agree the current layout of the junction can certainly be improved, but we ask for any such review to have as its first priority the safety and well-being of pedestrians and cyclists – and secondly ensuring priority is given to public transport. The junction is a major crossing and meeting point for our neighbourhood and should be designed as such, not a quick thoroughfare for cars.

Furthermore, we share your concern about our residents’ safety when currently walking, cycling or wheeling, both from air pollution and traffic danger. We however strongly believe the answers to these indeed crucial matters will never come from giving more priority to individual cars. Making walking (and cycling) safe and healthy for everyone aged between 1 and 100 as well as offering frequent and quick public transport should be our paramount priorities, both from an efficiency and climate point of view.

We respectfully ask, would anyone concerned with the issue of air pollution and pedestrian & cyclists safety really ever start by suggesting opening up a street through the middle of a park (home to 2 primary schools and 2 nurseries) and increasing traffic speed and flow for cars? Whilst we absolutely agree traffic jam bring their own risks to pedestrians and cyclists, we would also like to add that the current setup generally reduces the speed of any cars passing through the area (albeit sadly not enough in some cases) which has to be a positive impact on walking and cycling safety.

As part of the revision you are calling for and you mention is due to take place by the council’s transport & environment committee we are calling for the main focus to be on expanding pavements, improving pedestrian crossing points by making them safer and more frequent, creating dedicated bus lanes to avoid buses being stuck in amongst cars, adding segregated cycle lanes covering our area’s main routes. This review – in order to create a safer and healthier environment for us all, should include considering which one of our, in many instances narrow, streets should be accessible by car and in what direction.

In addition to some short-term measures, we are calling for both our Community Council and Edinburgh City Council to engage our local community and work towards a vision for a neighbourhood built for all of us, of all ages and abilities, to be able to move around in an as safe, healthy and green way possible. The possibilities are clearly endless to create a truly transformative neighbourhood with the highest quality of life if we focus on quality walking, cycling and wheeling journeys – especially for our youngest and oldest residents. The world is full of examples and initiatives, from 20-minute neighbourhoods, green corridors, school streets to name but a few, who might have all seem slightly utopian at the outset but are all proving to bring enormous advantages to local residents and businesses alike. We believe the community council could play a major part in shaping and steering this crucial debate our neighbourhood deserves.

We hope our comments are seen in the constructive manner they are given and hope to work together to make the Leith Links area the best it can be for all residents.

Kind Regards,


Letter dated 30/10/20 from Leith Links Community Council in response to letter received dated 23/10/20

30.10.20

Dear Leith Links Residents

Thank you for writing to Leith Links Community Council to share your views. We will certainly make sure these are recorded and made available for others to read.

As a community council, our primary role is to gather and share information and also to consult local people, often representing their views to City of Edinburgh Council. So it really helps if local residents make their views clear, as you have done.

While we do not disagree with anything you have said in your letter – quite the reverse – we have also received mail from a lot of residents who argue strongly for re-opening Links Gardens and for redesign of the Easter Road Junction.

The community appears to be divided.  The community council itself does not have a fixed position on the matter.

For the moment, we await the promised review.

Ideally, we would like to see the city council try harder to engage with residents and businesses affected in our area, to better explain and justify the Spaces for People initiatives and Low Traffic Neighbourhood proposals, supplying the data and evidence behind their decisions, monitoring the impact and knock-on effects of any changes they introduce, and demonstrating the flexibility and willingness to amend and adjust them in the light of real-world localised experience.

We appreciate your emphasis on the wish to be constructive and to ‘look forward to the debate ahead’. We feel the same. As a CC, our major concern is to ensure that there actually IS a meaningful ‘debate ahead’. And we are open to suggestions about how we can all play a part in achieving that, since, sadly, a live public meeting is not a realistic option for the time being.

Best wishes,

Sally Millar

Secretary, Leith Links Community Council


 

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