Plans with no cycle paths face rough ride

SCHEMES to build new homes, offices and shops face being blocked by planning chiefs unless they link into Edinburgh's off-road cycle network.

The tough new rules are being considered by the city council in a bid to combat the expected explosion in traffic levels in the Capital over the next 20 years.

Under the plans, developers would have to pay to build new cycle paths or provide good access to the Capital's existing off-road cycle paths as part of any new planning application.

The move comes as thousands of new homes, offices and shops are planned to be built across Edinburgh over the next few years, and especially in the waterfront area.

Currently, around five per cent of people use bikes to get to and from work - and the council wants this to rise to ten per cent by the end of the decade.

Cycle lobby groups today backed the proposed new rule, which they said would have helped improve the existing layout in areas such as Ocean Terminal had it been in place earlier.

Ian Maxwell, a member of cycling lobby group Spokes, said: "We have had both housing and commercial developments built very close to the cycle network, but they have not included any new links.

"Putting in a provision would help stop this happening again. If it is written down in the planning policy, then developers will be more likely to co-operate.

"In many cases, the spine of a good cycle network is in place, but there aren't links in place for all of it."

Erl Wilkie, the chief executive of Cycling Scotland, added: "We believe there is a need for joined-up thinking when integrating cycling infrastructure into the transport network."

The details of the new rule have not yet been drawn up, but the proposal aims to refuse permission if a development "fails to link satisfactorily with and extend the network of off-road cycle and footpaths where the opportunity for this exists".

Councillor Andrew Burns, the city's transport leader, said: "Edinburgh already has a fantastic network of paths and cycleways, which are already well used. Currently, 18 per cent of residents across the city walk to work and nearly five per cent cycle to work. The process of establishing a link to off-road footways and cycling paths through the planning process will provide a great opportunity to link up the existing network which will see even more people choosing sustainable travel options."

The draft city local plan is expected to be finalised by April, when it will then be put out to public consultation. One of Edinburgh's key property developers - Strathclyde Homes - today said the industry will look favourably on the proposals.

Land director Paul Zarb said: "This is an interesting idea from a council that has always been progressive in its transport plans.

"Green policies should be encouraged, and we certainly wouldn't be against the principle of this idea - but we would want to know more about the costs."

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