Spaces for People Edinburgh: Shopping restrictions binned but others will be in force for 18 months

Spaces for People measures around the city’s shopping districts are set to be scrapped - but some of the more controversial schemes will be retained for a further 18 months.

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At the next meeting of Edinburgh City Council’s transport committee, members will vote for which schemes they want to take forward using Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs), which allow the council to retain Spaces for People measures for a further 18 months.

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The current measures were introduced using Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (TTROs) which council officers say are used to reduce ‘specific risks’ to the public - in this case the transmission of the coronavirus.

Spaces for People in Edinburgh city centre

Now, the ETROs will be used as an ‘experimenting and learning’ exercise over the next 18 months - meaning some Spaces for People schemes will have been in place three years before going through a formal legislative process.

The council says it is switching to ETROs, rather than the usual legal process where formal objections can be lodged by residents, because during the pandemic traffic and public transport levels have been incredibly low, and still haven’t recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh City Council said: “Officer recommendations are based on a series of criteria including the impact of projects on encouraging walking and cycling, if they benefit the street environment and how they affect public transport or disabled road users.

“They also take into account longer-term council objectives relating to climate change, health and the city’s economy, as well as responses received as part of a major public consultation.

Councillor Lesley Macinnes wants to make our streets safer

“This attracted more than 17,600 participants and has been considered alongside the results of independent market research and comments from key stakeholders.”

Among the schemes recommended for retention using ETROs is the pedestrianisation of Waverley Bridge, Cockburn Street and Victoria Street, and the protected cycle lanes on Old Dalkeith Road, Crewe Road South, Lanark Road and Comiston Road.

Council officers have also recommended retaining the closures to general traffic on Cammo Walk and Silverknowes Road North.

A car-free George Street could be safer for women in the city

The majority of Spaces for People measures on shopping streets have been recommended for approval.

These schemes were designed to facilitate social distancing during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, but impacted heavily on servicing, parking (including for disabled people) and, in some cases, bus services.

Officers have also recommended removing pedestrian and cycle infrastructure on Forrest Road and George IV Bridge.

Transport and Environment Convener councillor Lesley Macinnes said: “Over the last year we’ve responded to an emergency situation, making great strides to provide families with protected spaces to exercise, to help people cycle safely to work and to give the public room to physically distance while spending time in local shopping streets.

“We know people have benefited from the changes and we want to see if we can keep as many as possible of the project benefits as we hopefully move out of the COVID pandemic.

“As we look toward the end of the pandemic, we want to make a sustainable, successful recovery.

“By helping people to walk, cycle and wheel, many of the changes we’ve made to streets will support this, as well as our broader ambitions to achieve carbon neutrality, reduce air pollution and to improve the quality of life for all those who live in and visit Edinburgh.

“Projects have been controversial, and some groups, notably those representing people with mobility and visual impairments, have raised concerns about their impacts, especially on parking.

“Other concerns include ‘floating’ car parking and impacts on traffic levels on some roads.

“I’m committed to making sure we listen to feedback and make improvements as we move into a new stage of trialling projects.

“I want the measures we keep in the longer term to get the balance right, working for everyone.”

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