Yesterday’s meeting of the transport and environment committee considered a series of strategic reports focusing on creating a more resilient, liveable city. The councillors approved the launch of consultation of proposals under the Edinburgh City Centre Transformation (ECCT) strategy.
The strategy is intended to reshape the city through a series of interventions aimed at improving public spaces and prioritising movement on foot, by bike and by public transport.
Councillors also gave the green light to begin public engagement on proposals for low emission zones (LEZs). If progressed, they would see Edinburgh implement a citywide LEZ. The scheme is supported by initial consultation that saw 75% of residents supporting restrictions on polluting vehicles.
In addition, the committee agreed a proposed draft framework for the City Mobility Plan, which, proposes a package of policy measures for achieving a ‘cleaner safer, inclusive and accessible transport system’.
Councillor Lesley Macinnes, the city’s transport and environment convener, said: “This is about building resilience for the future, responding to the rapidly evolving needs of a growing city. We simply can’t stand still and accept the status quo any longer – the decisions made today will allow us to move forward with a range of measures which, interlinked, will serve the best interests of the capital’s residents, protecting public health, encouraging economic growth and conserving our beautiful, historic city for generations to come.”
She added: “We know from our own, extensive consultation that people want to see radical changes made to the way we use our city and through ECCT we want to do just that. This strategic approach, in close alignment with our ambitious LEZ proposals, will not only impact on quality of life, but will equip us to deal with the challenges facing the city, from population growth, air pollution and the fast-paced tempo of modern life.”
Councillor Karen Doran, who is transport and environment vice convener, said: “I am delighted that we have received committee support to progress with this range of reports, each of which are critical to creating a successful, accessible and sustainable future for Edinburgh.”
Cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity Michael Matheson expressed support for the ECCT plans. “This is a pivotal moment for the City of Edinburgh, which responds to the real desire that residents have to improve public places and prioritise movement through walking, cycling and public transport.
“The range of interventions considered, including a low emission zone, will protect public health and encourage sustainable economic growth. At the same time, it responds to future challenges regarding capacity while promoting a cleaner, safer and more accessible transport system.
“This action is timely as Transport Scotland takes forward a nationwide assessment of transport requirements with work on an updated National Transport Strategy and the second Strategic Transport Projects Review under way.
“Many of the studies which underpin the transformation programme have been funded by the Scottish Government. We will continue to support these shared ambitions through our funding for active travel and through the development of guidance and regulations for Scotland’s low emission zones.”
Another report closely aligned to ECCT, LEZ and the City Mobility Plan, focusing on the redesign of George Street and First New Town, was backed by committee members, who approved a set of fundamental design elements to transform the area. The proposals include wider pavements, new seating areas and a segregated cycleway, with delivery to be integrated into the ECCT delivery plan.
Consultation on significant cycling and walking improvements on the route between the Meadows and George Street was also given the go-ahead as part of the ECCT Proposed Strategy. Amongst measures are the closure of Bank Street to general traffic and pedestrian priority on Forrest Road.
The proposals include:
- a pedestrian priority zone and a network of car-free streets creating a walkable core at the heart of the World Heritage Site.
- improvements to streets and public spaces which complement the city’s unique heritage.
- connected network across the city centre of segregated and safe cycle routes including a new walking and cycling bridge connecting the Old Town and the New Town.
- a free city centre hopper bus to support people moving around the city without a car.
- lifts or other forms of vertical connections at key points to help people, especially those with mobility restrictions, explore the different street levels.
- reducing the presence of cars to free up space for other users, including a significant reduction of on-street parking with priority given to residents and blue badge parking.