Category Archives: News

LSE Comments on ‘Summertime Streets’ 2019

 Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG) strongly supports the concept of ‘summertime streets’; ie closing streets to motor traffic during the festival to create more space for people to walk in safety to enjoy Edinburgh, its sights, shows, shops, bars etc and to make a better environment for local residents. LSEG first called for such measures in 2015: https://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2015/11/16/car-free-edinburgh-for-festival-for-2016/. We have the following observations to make on specific locations.

 

Cockburn Street, Victoria Street

 These streets were well stewarded and in our view worked best. However, we are not clear why there were so many cars parked in Cockburn Street in particular. The ugly metal barriers used block off the streets to vehicles should be replaced by ones which are more ‘people-friendly’ and show clearly that walking is permitted (and indeed encouraged!)

 

Candlemaker Row

Our feedback was generally positive on this street. However, many tour coaches ignored the ban with apparent impunity and this requires better management.

 

Cowgate

Summertime Streets was not a success in the Cowgate. As was amply demonstrated on social media, the ban on motor traffic was completely ignored by many drivers, including licensed private hire cars and taxis. There was usually little if any staff present to manage the restrictions. Pavement parking was rife (as in previous years) and the police appeared to show no appetite to deal with the frequent ‘moving vehicle offences’. The restrictions in our view should start from 12.00 midday or 14.00, with all servicing of bars, restaurants etc taking place before then. Appropriate access to courts, the mortuary etc could be provided through special arrangements, use of Guthrie Street etc.

 

Lawnmarket

This was also unsatisfactory. Taxis and many tourist coaches use the roundabout at the foot of Castle Hill to turn, completely undermining the ‘car-free’ environment of the Lawnmarket. Stewards, who had the difficult job of managing this conflict, were frequently observed shouting at pedestrians to get out of the way of vehicles. Vehicles should therefore be banned entirely from Johnston Terrace during the traffic restriction period.

 

High Street/South Bridge

 We were pleased to see barriers providing wider walking space on the west side of South Bridge near the Tron – a high-risk space for pedestrians. We note the problems reported by residents about diversion of bus routes on the Canongate and would not object to buses (but not general traffic, including taxis) continuing to use the street during the festival. At the other end of the High Street, the police appeared to be prioritising vehicles exiting from St Giles Street over pedestrians – this section of the High Street (to Bank St/George IV St) needs to be improved. There should be no vehicle access to Parliament Square during the festival, allowing this grossly under-valued space to be better used by people on foot.

 

Conclusions

We welcome the Council’s introduction of traffic restrictions in 2019. However, we want to see the idea improved and extended in 2020 particularly by:

  • extending the hours of traffic closures;
  • extending the traffic closures to more streets; and
  • improving enforcement/staffing of traffic restrictions.

Tackling Street Clutter through Locality Working

Introduction

The Living Streets Edinburgh Group (LSEG) carried out a project to tackle pavement clutter in the summer of 2019. We are grateful to Paths for All for supporting the project through its ‘Smarter Choices Smarter Places’ Open Fund.

The first objective of the project was to identify at least 100 obstructions on city pavements which inhibit walking – aiming to have at least some of these removed. Secondly, and just as important, we wanted to develop our understanding of the problems that street clutter cause and share perspectives on managing clutter between ourselves (LSEG members), community representatives and council staff working at ‘the coal face’ of managing local roads. This meant working closely with the four Locality Roads Managers across the city and their staff.

What we did

Four members of LSEG participated in the project, each working in one of the four ‘Localities’ (North West, North East, South East and South West). We emailed all community councils in the city that we could find and also the Edinburgh Access Panel, inviting suggestions for areas to look at where ‘pavement clutter’ was seen as a problem.

Based on this feedback and personal knowledge, we then walked selected city streets, recording and photographing objects which we felt inhibited walking and should be removed. We appreciate the participation of members of the Access Panel, community councillors and City of Edinburgh Councillors who joined us on several of these walks.

The project aimed to take in different parts of the city, focussing as much on residential areas as on ‘town centres’ or central Edinburgh. The main areas assessed are set out below. We appreciate that this inevitably misses out many parts of the city where no doubt pavement clutter is just as much of a problem as in these areas.

NW SW SE NE
Blackhall/Craigleith Colinton Bruntsfield Easter Road
Broomhouse Dalry Tollcross Leith Walk
Corstorphine Gorgie Hanover St London Road
Drumbrae Oxgangs Morrison St Portobello
Ferry Road Slateford South Bridge Willowbrae
Pilton Walter Scott Avenue

What did we find?

In all, we identified 290 items of ‘clutter’ which we felt should be tackled – far more than the original target of 100! We took a broad view of what might be considered ‘clutter’, which to some extent is subjective. However, we aimed to focus on things which are fixed, or at least in place for a considerable time. So this included things like signage poles, guard rails, large refuse bins, bushes, utility boxes, phone kiosks and roadworks signs. We generally excluded things like the occasional stray ‘A-board’ (contravening the council-wide ban), regular wheelie bins and pavement parking, despite encountering this on many streets.

At the time or writing, we are awaiting responses from the council on most of the items which we identified. However, few items have been tackled as ‘quick wins’ (especially removal of overhanging vegetation). In some other cases, council staff judge that items which we identified as ‘clutter’ should be retained. Often, locality staff have to consult further with colleagues over whether items which we have identified can be removed.

Lessons learned

LSEG developed a better understanding of how ‘clutter’ comes about and how difficult it can be for local roads staff to manage.  There can be historic reasons to explain the presence of some clutter; for example a guardrail on St Johns Road used to provide protection at a busy bakery, but has long been closed. Local roads staff face requests for items to be placed on the street from many different sources (both within the council and from external bodies).   Resource constraints (both in terms of staffing and capital) seem to limit the extent to which clutter (and the scope for removing it) is assessed. Another clear message is that inspection regimes are almost entirely focussed on hazards and ‘defects’ – for example a broken traffic sign will be reported, but not an unnecessary one.

The influence of the Council’s Street Design Guidance – which has minimising clutter as one of its key principles – seems limited in practice. A particular example of this is that, despite the Guidance stating that vertical No Loading signs should normally be removed, other council managers have advised locality staff that these signs should be kept.

In some cases, action to remove clutter may require a programmed, rather than-an-item by item, approach.  Examples include obsolete (non-operational) ‘real-time’ parking availability signs and poorly maintained or semi-derelict phone boxes. There seems to be a real opportunity to manage streets more ‘holistically’ which should produce better streets; and perhaps also reduce costs.

Next steps

We believe that there are valuable insights from this project which will be useful to share with a wider audience – to community groups in Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh Council staff, other councils, and professional bodies and institutes. We therefore hope to secure additional funding to enable us to publish a professionally produced report and a short video to communicate the findings of our project more widely.

We will also keep in touch with the localities staff (currently being re-organised) and continue to monitor what happens to the 290 items we recorded. To keep in touch, please see our website and Twitter account for further updates.

 

David Hunter

Living Streets Edinburgh Group

October 2019

LSE Objects to Cowgate Hotel Development – 19/03174/FUL

We object to this application on the grounds of the failure to improve the pavements outside the development. Consent should only be given if there is a significant contribution by the developer through a ‘Section 75’ grant to improving them.

The problems with the current pavement are well known – it is less than one metre wide and has multiple vertical kerbs. These features mean that many pedestrians are placed in hazard by having to walk in the road (carriageway) at present, while the pavement is unusable by a person using a wheelchair. The pavement therefore needs to be widened and made level. We do not consider that it would be ‘reasonable’ (in the context of the 2010 Equality Act) if these deficiencies were not remedied as part of the development. If consent is granted without requiring these improvements, we would therefore ask the Equality and Human Rights Commission to formally investigate.

The minimum width for this pavement specified in the Council’s Street Design Guidance is 2.5 metres. To achieve this may require further traffic management measures (such as the installation of a chicane) which were recommended in the street audit conducted by Living Streets Edinburgh Group in 2016 (bit.ly/2covj3Q). This would be consistent with the proposals to make the Cowgate ‘pedestrian priority’ as part of the City Centre Transformation initiative.

We also consider that there is over-provision of hotels in the Cowgate, although this site may be more suitable for a hotel than some other developments which have already been approved.

LSE Objects to new Haymarket Development

This development is an opportunity for the Council to help deliver the ambitions set out in the City Centre Transformation programme. This application is not consistent with these ambitions or the professed ‘climate emergency’. This is ‘business as usual’.

Most fundamentally, why would such a central site, and Edinburgh’s busiest transport interchange on the west side of the city, be suitable for car parking, but not homes? If the council does intend to reduce city centre traffic by 25% as stated, there should be no car parking at all at such a site.

The development appears to make little or no contribution to the surrounding pedestrian area. It is an opportunity in particular to transform the Haymarket junction and western part of Morrison Street, some of the least pedestrian-friendly streets in the whole city. This needs the pavements on the outside of the development to be widened and improved with much more engaging, active frontages. It is not good enough to simply funnel pedestrians into the development itself: allowing people to walk through the development in comfort while leaving Morrison Street as a grim thoroughfare is not acceptable. The developer of prestige sites like this should be making significant financial and design contributions to improvements to the wider pedestrian environment.

 

Reducing Pavement Clutter

Living Streets Edinburgh Group is pleased to have been awarded a grant from Paths for All under its ‘Smarter Choices, Smarter Places’ programme to tackle ‘pavement clutter’ in the city.  We aim to build on the ‘A-board ban’ to help free some of Edinburgh’s narrow pavements of obstructions. The City of Edinburgh Council is providing match funding for the project, which runs to September 2019.

 

The idea is that we will work with local council staff to identify – and hopefully remove – obstructions which get in the way of people walking. Our focus is especially on ‘fixed clutter – such as guard rails, signage poles or old phone boxes, but we will look at other obstructions too such as bins or encroaching vegetation from hedges. We aim to identify at least 100 pieces of ‘clutter’ in all. Our focus is across the whole city, not just in the city centre and we want to look at residential areas and local shopping districts.

As well as making some specific streets clearer, we hope that the project will generally raise awareness of problems caused by clutter and opportunities to remove it. We also see this as an opportunity for LSEG to build relationships with locality staff and also to involve community councils, and the Edinburgh Access Panel.

How you can help

We are looking for local community groups and individuals to tell us areas where you think there is a particular problem with pavement clutter. You can contact us by email, twitter of Facebook and we will then have a look at the street. We will also invite community councils in areas that we are looking at to join us on a walk around the area and suggest items that should be cleared from the pavement.