Tag Archives: Cowgate

Walking Campaigners Call For Pedestrianisation Of Key Streets At 2019 Edinburgh Festivals

 Key Edinburgh city centre streets should be pedestrianised for the 2019 festivals following ‘intolerable’ experiences for pedestrians this year, says the local walking campaign group, Living Streets Edinburgh [1]. In a letter [2] to City Council Leader, Adam McVey, the group’s Convenor, David Spaven, says:

‘Living Streets Edinburgh has been calling for restrictions on private traffic during the summer festival for several years[1]. We believe that the experience for pedestrians, hemmed into narrow streets surrounded by traffic has become intolerable. The festival experience would be hugely enhanced – and made much safer – by excluding much motor traffic from city centre streets during August. Each year, this becomes more urgent; in 2018 it has come to the stage that new barriers have been widely used to keep pedestrians out of the road.’

The group suggests that many of the busiest streets should be pedestrianised, or restricted for general motor traffic, with ‘obvious candidates’ being Cowgate (where the precedent of banning traffic at night has been in place for around 20 years), Lawnmarket and the Royal Mile. They also recommend that the option of planning a significant expansion of public transport at festival time, within the city and to the city, should be considered, especially at night and weekends.

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

[1] Living Streets Edinburgh is the local voluntary arm of the national charity which campaigns for ‘everyday walking’. http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/

[2] Text of message sent to Cllr McVey on 28 August 2018:

 

Dear Cllr McVey

 As you know, Living Streets Edinburgh has been calling for restrictions on private traffic during the summer festival for several years[1]. We believe that the experience for pedestrians, hemmed into narrow streets surrounded by traffic has become intolerable. The festival experience would be hugely enhanced – and made much safer – by excluding much motor traffic from city centre streets during August. Each year, this becomes more urgent; in 2018 it has come to the stage that new barriers have been widely used to keep pedestrians out of the road.

While we welcome the introduction of traffic restrictions in Cockburn Street for the first time this year, this is far from enough. We’re therefore repeating our call for a thorough review of traffic for next year’s festival, with the aim of making many of the busiest streets pedestrianised, or restricted for general motor traffic. Obvious candidates are the Cowgate (where the precedent of banning traffic at night has been in place for around 20 years), Lawnmarket and the Royal Mile, although there are many other streets which would benefit from excluding traffic.

 So long as adequate notice is given, there is no reason why this should cause difficulty to businesses and venues in arranging deliveries, waste collection etc at permitted times. Clearly the needs of some motor traffic, such as public transport, disabled motorists and possibly taxis requires some consideration.

 However, in addition to the need for traffic restraint, we believe that this year’s festival has raised some wider issues about the management of Edinburgh as a ‘festival city’. While we recognise the many benefits that the festival brings to the city, the restriction of entry to, and views into, Princes Street Gardens generated a lot of public debate about the use of public spaces and the extent to which it is acceptable to restrict them to the public. At times the public transport system has seemed barely able to cope, with passengers turned away from full buses and trains, sometimes when there are infrequent evening and weekend services. 

 We therefore hope that there will be a thorough review of the festival which considers the potential benefit and impacts of curtailing traffic, but also takes account of these wider issues. For example, the option of planning a significant expansion of public transport within the city and to the city should be considered, especially at night and weekends. There will no doubt be many other options which can be considered to improve the festival experience for both residents and visitors, while continuing to welcome all the benefits that the festival brings.

 We hope that this request will receive your support, and that of Councillors responsible for transport, culture etc, and other festivals partners.

 Regards

 David Spaven

Convenor, Living Streets Edinburgh Group

 

[1] https://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2015/11/16/car-free-edinburgh-for-festival-for-2016/

Objection to planning reference 15/04445/FUL- Cowgate / Victoria Street

Living Streets Edinburgh objection to planning reference 15/04445/FUL- Mixed use development comprising hotel, bar, restaurant, cafe, retail and commercial uses and alterations to India Buildings, 11-15 Victoria Street and Cowgatehead Church. | 1 -15 Victoria Street 18-20 Cowgate Edinburgh EH1 2EX

Living Streets Edinburgh has a number of concerns about this application, which lead us to object to it. Our reading of the application leads us to believe that the developer has not fully considered the implications of their proposal for pedestrians, and where they have considered them, they have ignored key issues.

Our main objection relates to the issue of loading/unloading in the Cowgate and Victoria Street, but we highlight below further concerns about access to bus stops, and general pedestrian accessibility.

Loading & Unloading

151031125538IMG_3703The planning application proposes that coaches and goods vehicles will use the Cowgate for loading/unloading of goods and people.  They’ve included a very narrow loading bay to facilitate this. However, the Cowgate is simply not wide enough at this point to accomodate vehicle loading.

The proposed loading bay will take away valuable pavement space.  The pavements in this area are already very narrow – and are on a busy road.  They’re currently 1.8m (at the back of this site ), and yet the developers want to NARROW them further, which seems likely to take them to the very minimum advised in the council’s own street guidance, given that the Cowgate is demarcated as a secondary retail/high st.

At present, deliveries to the site use the lane at the back of the Central Library up to the back of ‘Espionage’.  They do not use the street as in the current proposal.  The Cowgate is one of the only east / west roads left in the city center open to general traffic.  Any blockage would have major knock on effects through the Cowgate and Grassmarket.  Any vehicle loading or unloading would cause severe congestion within minutes.  The proposed narrow loading bay would not facilitate 2 way traffic.

150505145159IMG_11512As can be seen elsewhere in the Cowgate, delivery vehicles frequently park on the pavement, forcing pavement users into the road.  The damage caused by delivery vehicles can be seen throughout the Cowgate. It would be extremely deleterious to the pedestrian experience of Edinburgh, as well as costly to the council, if this practice were to be expanded any further.

For example, at the back of the recently opened Soco development an attempt was made by developers to build a loading bay on the pavement.  This has not worked as vehicles often take up the entire loading bay AND pavement, again blocking the pavement for legitimate users.

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Night-time closures

We also note that the site is within the night time road closures of Cowgate. There is no mention of this in the planning application.  If a delivery vehicle or bus requires access 10pm till 6 am where do they park?  If a vehicle does go through the no entry signs,  parks on the Cowgate, how would it leave the site?  Reverse out or drive through the closed road? Any of these options would again be disadvantageous to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians.

Narrow pavements and expanded footfall

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Pavement narrows to just 85cm meters from the proposed development

This proposal will inevitably increase the number of pavement users on the Cowgate.  No mention of this has been made in the application.  To the east of this development the pavement narrows to just 85cm under George the 4th Bridge on both sides of the road.  To the west pedestrians have to negotiate the very wide junction at the bottom of Victoria street.

With regards to Victoria Street the road narrows at the front of the development / behind the G&V Hotel.  As can be seen in some of the photos in the application the pavements in this area have been badly damaged by delivery vehicles parking on them.

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Cowgate / Victoria Street junction – very wide for pedestrians to cross

Victoria st junction

150512133645IMG_1288Any hotel guest trying to travel north will have to cross the 2 lanes of traffic at the top of Victoria Street.  During the rush hour it can be difficult to cross this junction on foot.  The increased number of vehicle movements on this street as a result of this development will only make the issue worse.

We are also concerned about the knock-on effects on Victoria St, which is likely to be used by coach or other delivery vehicles, especially those relying on SatNav. The street runs the risk of being overwhelmed if large vehicles attempt to negotiate this narrow street and become blocked.

Bus facilities- George IV bridge

150512133723IMG_1290The planning application makes note of the bus facilities nearby for use by its customers.  It does not mention that you have to cross 4 lanes of heavy traffic on George IV bridge to get to them.

 

Our advice would be that if the development is approved, it should be on the condition that

  • An off-street loading / unloading / drop off point should be created off the Cowgate.  The site is big enough for this.  There’s an example of an off road delivery bay at the Smart City Hostel further along the Cowgate.
  • The pavements should be widened along this part of the site to at least the far side of the George the 4th Bridge.
  • A pelican crossing should be installed on George the 4th Bridge at the top of Victoria St to allow people to cross the road without having to walk up to the junction with the Royal Mile to be able to cross the road safely.
  • All pavements surrounding the site should be protected by bollards to prevent vehicles parking on the pavement.  The upkeep and maintenance of these bollards and the paving stones should be met by the development.
  • During construction pedestrian traffic should be maintained on both sides of the road.
  • The bottom of Victoria Street at the junction with the Cowgate should be narrowed to allow pedestrians to cross the junction safely.
  • Along Victoria Street and the Cowgate more crossing points should be provided to allow pedestrians safer access to the development.

 

Available as a downloadable PDF – Living-Streets-Edinburgh-Cowgate-objection (98kb)