Edinburgh’s City Centre Transformation plan is too short on detail – Joanna Mowat

Councillors cannot make big decisions about Edinburgh’s future based on pretty pictures in the City Centre Transformation document, we need to see the detail, writes Joanna Mowat.

Integrated bus ticketing should be a priority, says Joanna Mowat
Integrated bus ticketing should be a priority, says Joanna Mowat

Much has been made in the press of the City Centre Transformation project and yet again the Conservatives are being called out for their lack of support.

The reality is that the Conservatives do support many of the principles of the project but have asked for further details on the delivery of some of the key elements of the proposals.

What councillors were presented with at the Transport Committee – and will debate again next week at the full meeting of the Council – looks more like a marketing prospectus than the detailed delivery and implementation plan we were promised when the strategy was previously discussed.

It would be remiss of councillors to approve a strategy that will shape the city for the next 10 years without asking for more details about how the pretty pictures will be delivered and impact on the lives of all those who live, work and visit the city.

I cannot think of such a significant strategy that has been put before councillors with no access to the supporting documentation so that councillors can drill down into the proposals before taking the decision.

This is a lengthy document but short on detail.

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We have seen a month-long trial of some of the key closures and what was brought to committee seeks to note that the strategy will proceed with closing the same streets that were closed over the summer.

The problem is two-fold – the summer streets closures were not without their problems and isolated residents in the Canongate and Royal Mile and the Council voted against carrying out detailed consultation with the residents and businesses in affected streets at the Council meeting in August.

Assurances may have been given that there would be consultation but the details of this (despite asking) have not been forthcoming.

Without more information and a commitment to fully explore the issues raised would it be reasonable to agree further closures?

Of course not – councillors would be failing in their duty to the public were they to do so.

There is no debate about the benefits some of the proposals will deliver – a management and operations centre would be welcomed by all and this has been made clear from the outset.

The only question is why hasn’t work already started on this.

Other disappointments are that proposals for integrated ticketing sit at the end of the chart rather than at the beginning, as everyone in Edinburgh seems to be agreed on being able to buy a bus ticket that allows you to change bus during your journey – it seems odd not to prioritise this work.

City Centre Transformation aims to reduce traffic in the City by 30 per cent - the question everyone is asking is will it be my bus that is reduced, my plumber who can’t get through, my journey with the car to take the talented swimmer to the Commie for their training at 5.30 on a winter’s morning?

We can’t answer these questions and until the way ahead is clearer we shouldn’t be waving through pretty pictures.

Joanna Mowat is a Conservative councillor for the city centre ward