Leith could become city’s ‘biggest park and ride’ if tram extension is approved

Leith could become the Capital’s “biggest park and ride” if the tram extension is approved by councillors, critics have warned.

Ahead of Thursday’s crunch meeting when the city council will determine whether to go ahead with the £207m tram extension to Newhaven, a coalition of community councils has called for its fears to be addressed.

On behalf of Community Councils Together on Trams (CCTT), spokesperson Harald Tobermann, said: “We recognise that a strong feeling exists among many people in our communities that this project is being pushed through with undue and unnecessary haste.

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“We remain sceptical about the absence of sufficiently robust progress or commitment over the following measures which are essential if the tram is to achieve its steep environmental mode-shifting targets and if the collateral damage of the inevitably disruptive construction period is to be reduced.”

Prince Regent Street in the Newhaven area. Pic: Neil Hanna

The group is calling for a full integrated ticketing system and assurances there will be staged construction sites to avoid the simultaneous closure of key routes such as Leith Walk and Constitution Street. The campaigners are appealing for controlled parking zones along the tram corridor, claiming this is “key to preventing the tram corridor from turning into Edinburgh’s largest park and ride area”.

The city council is expected to bring forward plans for controlled parking in Leith and Leith Walk as part of a strategic review of parking across the city.

Cllr Chas Booth, Green transport spokesperson, said: “The council is already working to introduce parking restrictions in the Leith and Leith Walk areas, and will consider firm proposals at transport committee in May.

“Green councillors are pushing for a swift roll-out of those restrictions, as requested by Leith Central Community Council in their recent petition. We would certainly expect those restrictions to be in place in time for the completion of the tram line. We are also pushing for better enforcement of existing parking restrictions, to ensure that selfish or inconsiderate drivers are held to account for their actions.”

The community councils have also called for improved pavements and the “introduction of a streamlined dual permit system for scaffolding” in Constitution Street during the works – along with “further serious engagement with residents and businesses” over the designs. The group also wants to ensure traders set to be impacted by the construction can be notified early so they can plan ahead to mitigate any disruption.

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “We’ve worked very closely with the community councils throughout the process of building the final business case and have successfully addressed many of their concerns, including some noted in the joint statement.

“The six-month early contractor involvement period, which would start at the end of March if the project is approved tomorrow, will be a further opportunity, that we will enter into wholeheartedly, to further refine plans before construction gets under way.”

Conservatives have raised fears over a lack of space for park and ride schemes across the city.

Conservative group chairman, Cllr Jason Rust said: “We already know that the official park and ride sites could not cope if the workplace parking levy is implemented, and there are already more and more unofficial park and ride areas emerging in Edinburgh. That is witnessed in the west en route to the airport and clearly there are significant concerns about the same problems in the north.”