Category Archives: Council Policy

LivingStreets Edinburgh Group: our manifesto for Council elections May 2022

Please see our manifesto for the 2022 council elections. We hope that all parties and all candidates will adopt these policies, to make Edinburgh the wonderfully walkable city it should be. Please help get walking and wheeling given the priority it needs by asking your councillor and candidates for their support!

Living Streets Edinburgh is the local group of the national charity that campaigns for everyday walking and wheeling. Edinburgh is essentially a wonderful city for walking, thanks to its size, history and geography. However, the pedestrian environment is often substandard and overlooked by policy makers. We want everyday walking to be accessible, attractive, convenient and quick.

All parties in the current council agreed in August 2020 that walking is “top of the sustainable movement hierarchy”. But in practice walking is often given inadequate priority and funding, despite it being the greenest and most universal way that people travel.  We ask all candidates and political parties standing for election in May 2022 to support the following actions for the next council term:

Reduce motor traffic

  • Reduce road space for motor vehicles, including supporting low traffic zones and reducing on-street parking spaces;
  • provide better alternatives for people to travel by walking, cycling and public transport;
  • adopt a tougher approach to enforcement of antisocial parking – including at bus stops, schools and in bus and cycle lanes;
  • early and ‘zero tolerance’ enforcement of the pavement parking ban when it is introduced.

Improve pavements

  • Introduce proper wider pavements in all ‘town centre’ locations, replacing the temporary ‘spaces for people’ measures;
  • make pavements smooth and trip-free with a 20% increase in footway maintenance budgets;
  • set a new budget to remove pavement clutter, and stop adding to it (for example through EV chargers);
  • introduce at least 100 dropped kerbs (or continuous pavements) a year where they are missing.

Improve pedestrian crossings

  • Review every signalled pedestrian crossing to reduce the time people have to wait to cross;
  • increase the ‘green man time’ for pedestrians to a minimum of 10 seconds;
  • increase the pedestrian crossing budget by 20% and support the widespread introduction of low cost crossings such as ‘informal zebras’.

Make roads safer

  • Renew the council’s road safety plan with a vision zero approach – there should be no deaths or serious injuries from traffic collisions by 2030;
  • increase enforcement of road traffic offences such as speeding and red light jumping, with a big increase in the use of speed cameras;
  • introduce a safe travel plan for every school in the city which either removes traffic from the school gates or (where not possible) makes the pavement wider.

Use planning controls effectively

  • Encourage car-free housing on brownfield sites;
  • reject car-dependent applications including commercial ventures such as ‘drive through’s;
  • ensure developers pay a fair contribution to improving pedestrian spaces through voluntary or ‘Section 75’ payments.

https://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk

November 2021

Message to City of Edinburgh Council Planning Convener and Chief Officer on planning policy

As you know Living Streets Edinburgh Group has longstanding concerns regarding the priority given to walking in the planning process and the provision that is made for walking both in planning policy and in consideration of individual development proposals.

Walking is at the top of the movement hierarchy in Scottish Planning Policy and the National Transport Strategy; in 2020 the Council stated that ‘pedestrians are at the top of the urban transport hierarchy.’  Indeed, the Highway Code has also recently been revised to reflect this position.

CityPlan2030 offers an opportunity to review the position in terms of policy and allocations, but this will mean little in practice without a change in mindset across the authority and amongst developers.  COVID-19, COP 26 and the ongoing energy crisis add weight to the case for providing for walking at a level commensurate with its place at the top of the hierarchy.

We will obviously be reflecting this when we respond to the forthcoming consultation on the draft CityPlan2030.  In the meantime, we consider that there are steps the Council can take immediately to demonstrate its commitment to its own stated policy position.

When assessing planning applications under current policy there is already considerable scope with reference to documents such as Designing Streets and the Council’s own parking standards to secure, for example, car free developments and layouts focused on pedestrians. Whilst the situation is slowly improving, there is much more that can be done, particularly if it is made clear in pre-application discussions and is then in turn reflected in decisions on applications.

On a more practical note, we are all aware of the limitations of existing pedestrian infrastructure and the pressures put on it, directly and cumulatively, as a result of new development.  This can be directly by generating increased pedestrian movements or indirectly from additional vehicle movements which in turn require safer footways, crossings etc for walkers.  The Council has limited resources and maintenance/upgrading of pedestrian infrastructure is not a priority, even in the active travel budget.

The Council has Supplementary Guidance on Developer Contributions which currently provides for contributions for road improvements, but hardly at all for pedestrians other than as part of active travel projects.  This does not reflect the hierarchy in Scottish Planning Policy or the Council’s own position, so it will need to be updated in tandem with CityPlan2030.  

Circular 3/2012 (as amended) gives guidance on developer contributions for, inter alia, community benefits/infrastructure which can presumably include improvements to pedestrian infrastructure so long as the relevant tests are met.  This can provide a basis for the Council to develop a structured approach to assessing the requirement for contributions towards pedestrian infrastructure from development proposals. Depending on the type and scale of development this can be a specific contribution for an identified project directly related to the development.  In other cases it could be a proportionate financial contribution towards an area based programme justified by cumulative impact of developments.

Contributions for off site pedestrian infrastructure could form part of a Section 75 Planning Obligation along with any other contributions; or an upfront contribution (agreed with the developer) following determination, but before the issue of a decision; or perhaps under other legislation such as the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.  It should be possible for the Council to put together area based programmes setting out actions required by different levels of additional development, identify the costs and set out thresholds for contributions.  Once collected they could be ring fenced until sufficient funding is available and then spent within an agreed timescale or else returned.

Living Streets Edinburgh Group is happy to discuss any or all of this further and work with the Council on detailed area programmes as well as advise on improvements that would benefit everyday walking. In the meantime we look forward to your thoughts on our suggestions.

Tackling Pavement Clutter: Concluding Report by Living Streets Edinburgh Group

Introduction

In 2019, Living Streets Edinburgh Group launched a major project to tackle pavement clutter; this essentially had three distinct phases. The initial phase involved trying to understand what is ‘pavement clutter’, what causes it and what the council (in particular) can do about it. We identified 293 items (original target 100!) and reported this to the council.

The second phase of the project involved production of a report and video in 2000 to share awareness of the project and the problem that pavement clutter causes more widely. These resources and further links can be accessed on our website here: https://bit.ly/38GtAVW. We are grateful to both the City of Edinburgh Council and Paths for All for their support and funding (Smarter Choices Smarter Places).

However, until 2021, very little action had been taken to actually remove pavement clutter, including the 293 items which we originally identified. It was not until January 2021, after persistent lobbying by LSEG, that the City of Edinburgh Council identified a specific budget (£300,000) to remove unnecessary pavement clutter, as part of the Spaces for People scheme. By June 2021, when the scheme ended, the Council reported (https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/cuttingstreetclutter) that the following items had been removed:

226 bollards
139 signs and poles
300m of guardrail
64m of barriers
18 large car park signs
2 cycle racks

This has been very welcome; however there has been a degree of mis-match between the clutter removed by the Council and the main types of problem identified by our own ‘Cut the Clutter’ report: the latter found that the most prevalent problems were signage / poles, followed by vegetation, bins and then guard rails. The first and last have been tackled by the Council, but not the widespread problems with vegetation and bins. Bollards did not figure as a problem in our report, but appear to have been the Council’s main focus.

We were delighted that Living Streets took our local campaign to a national (UK) level (https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/cut-the-clutter). We hope that this will contribute to a change in culture among the professional roads community nationally which values clear pavements more highly. Of course, there are also other important changes needed to streets which are connected to pavement obstructions – notably, the need for wider footways (the problem of clutter being especially severe where pavements are narrow – as too often in Edinburgh). There is a fundamental need to reallocate road space from vehicles to pedestrians.

However, this paper aims to draw our current project on ‘tackling pavement clutter’ to a conclusion by recording some specific ‘lessons learnt’ and by making a number of detailed suggestions to the City of Edinburgh Council for better management and reduction of pavement clutter in the future. Despite the welcome progress by the council in removing clutter noted above, only £180,000 of the council’s Spaces for People budget was spent; and hundreds of items of clutter, both fixed and temporary, continue to litter Edinburgh pavements.

Recommendations

1) Request a report to committee reviewing the approach to identifying managing and removing pavement clutter. The aim should be ensure council practice follows best practice including the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance (ESDG), the communal bin policy and the statutory Traffic Sign Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD 2016, which specifically aimed to reduce signage clutter).

Key recommendations should be to:

  • ensure that new clutter – especially signage poles – is minimised (saving money as well as protecting pedestrian space),
  • ensure that decluttering is an integral part of all routine road maintenance operations
  • establish a dedicated decluttering budget as part of the new Active Travel Action Plan
  • put in place a stronger street management regime, with a clear focus on surveys, monitoring and enforcement.

2) Request that the council shares widely our ‘Cut the Clutter’ video/report among staff, contractors and other stakeholders; reinforce through internal training.

3) Utility companies (especially telecoms) – ask for the council to take a tougher line on the location of cabinets etc.

4) Phone kiosks – engage with BT to maintain damaged phone kiosks and remove unneeded ones (collaborating with appropriate national groups, including Living Streets, either in Scotland or ideally across the UK).

5) Royal Mail – establish where postal ‘holding boxes’ are no longer used and ask for removal (again, collaborating with appropriate national groups, including Living Streets, either in Scotland or ideally across the UK).

6) Roadworks – use existing agreements with utility companies, liaison with the Scottish Road Works Commissioner etc to improve the enforcement of statutory roadworks guidance standard of roadworks, to reduce signage clutter on footways etc. CEC should also press the Scottish Government for the stronger powers (including tougher penalties) that would make such action cost-effective.

7) Hedges/vegetation – council to initiate a programme for monitoring/cutting back hedges. Involve residents, community councils, etc. with the aim of residents understanding the problems caused by encroaching vegetation, and taking action themselves.

8) Bollards – remove where unnecessary, unless specific safety requirement. But take into account risk of pavement parking and also introduction of pavement parking ban, possibility of enforcement through ANPR camera etc.

9) Guardrails – remove unless there is a specific safety requirement which justifies their retention; for example at schools gates. A systematic process of assessment and removal needs to be continued, within a fixed timeframe, until all guardrails citywide have been covered.

10) Cycle parking – in line with new detailed Street Design Guidance adopt a presumption that cycle parking is to be located on carriageway rather than footway.

11) Goods /merchandise on display – need for co-ordinated action to enforce Section 129(9) of the Road Scotland Act 1984 which forbids the placement of goods for sale on the public sections of the street.

12) Bins – ensure domestic and commercial bins do not encroach onto pavements, or block crossings (especially where ‘dropped’) etc.

13) Tables and chairs outside cafes and restaurants – Following the pandemic, re-assess permits (many of which will have been granted a long time ago) to ensure that the balance is right between clear, safe walking space for pedestrians and the amenity offered by outdoor eating and drinking facilities.

14) Signage: generally, signs should not be mounted on their own poles unless absolutely necessary. There should be a presumption against some specific types of sign:

  • “No loading” (without time limit – no longer policy/required);
  • All signs on double poles;
  • Pairs of signs/poles on each side of the road – eg for ‘dead end’ sign, 20 mph etc (single signs have been legal/recommended since revision of TSRGD in 2016);
  • Repeated bus lane signs;
  • ‘City centre attractions’ (usually on double poles – replace with smaller ‘city centre’ sign on lamp posts);
  • ‘Temporary’ signs mounted on 1000kg yellow concrete blocks should be discontinued (they are often in place year after year). They should generally be mounted on lighting columns etc.

15) Other signage policy to be reviewed:

  • Cycle lane signs only to be attached to existing lighting columns etc (not mounted on separate poles);Review size (and number) of Controlled Parking Zone signs ;
  • Review the need for Greenways signage as part of a renewed bus priority strategy – for example “No Stopping at any time” signs which are very common in many streets;
  • Remove remaining obsolete parking real time displays (eg Dalry Road at Haymarket) and redundant VMS signs;
  • Remove ‘Safer Routes 2 School’ signs erected circa 2000;
  • Clear away old yellow housing development signs;
  • Review all ‘new roundabout ahead’, ‘new junction ahead’ signs – many have been in place for years; IT systems should flag up all such signs for automatic removal after (at most) 2 years;
  • Review need for large directional traffic signs, invariably on double poles, and in line with increased use of Satnavs etc.
  • Many street signs have their own lighting – but this is no longer required in most case (by law). Can we have a wholesale review to reduce the number of lit road signs (replacing them with reflecting surface) to reduce maintenance costs, energy consumption, etc?

16) Ensure that the risk of new types of clutter – for example from e-scooters or EV charging points – is identified and managed to ensure pedestrian interests are protected.

Living Streets Edinburgh Group
August 2021

Shopping Streets – LSE response to Edinburgh Council

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the various schemes to widen pavements in shopping streets (eg Corstorphine, Portobello, Morningside etc). This is a general response to all these schemes, although where we are able to, we will add supplementary comments on specific streets/locations.

First of all, we strongly support the initiative to widen pavements, which in many ‘town centre’ streets are grossly inadequate. This can only be done in many cases by removing on-street parking and loading, except for essential requirements (such as Blue Badge spaces where appropriate). We appreciate that some shops will want to see these parking and loading spaces retained, but crowded narrow pavements cannot possibly be an attractive environment for encouraging shoppers, may of whom arrive on foot or by public transport. Too much space in high streets is occupied by stationary vehicles.

We welcome the acknowledgment of the problems caused by clutter and guard rails and would encourage the council to take a much more vigorous approach to removing or relocating items including unnecessary phone boxes, royal mail boxes, telecoms cabinets etc as well as vertical signage on poles, many of which are no longer required since the Traffic Sign Regulations were changed in 2016.  Decluttering should take account of the various surveys and audits which Living Streets and others have carried out in recent years in many of the locations.

Design details will need to carefully consider and monitor access at bus stops especially for disabled people. We generally support bus priority measures including bus gates.

Where more outdoor space for businesses is provided (eg ‘tables and chairs’) it is essential that adequate clear space is provided for pedestrians and that the benefits to walking of widened footways are not swallowed up by added obstructions. It may be that ‘tables and chairs’ should normally be on reclaimed carriageway space, allowing the pavements themselves to be kept clear.

While we appreciate that these are temporary measures which need to be installed urgently, the extensive use of cones, barriers etc will make many streets look like roadworks, and thus risk making shopping streets look pretty ugly – if we actually want them to contribute to moving discussion forward it’s important that opportunities are taken to make things look better. Suitable gateway features / signage information for the public on the purpose / benefits of the scheme would be useful.

Effective management of schemes is essential, so that cones or barriers that fall over are quickly dealt with. Enforcement of parking and speeding, including a visible role of Police Scotland is important too.

Temporary bike parking should be installed at suitable locations, where they do not add to pavement clutter.

Monitoring of schemes must collect robust data on walking/footfall.

Promoting walking during social distancing (supplementary paper)

1) Introduction

This paper supplements the ‘5 Point Plan’ we produced on 7 May 2020, outlining steps we’d like to see to make walking attractive, safe and accessible during the Coronavrus crisis and its aftermath. It should be read in conjunction with that Plan: http://www.livingstreetsedinburgh.org.uk/2020/05/09/a-5-point-plan-for-city-of-edinburgh-council-to-promote-walking-during-social-distancing/

We want to see early implementation of the measures outlined in the Council Report and amendment approved on 14 May, especially those which focus most on walking improvements: widening pavements, improving crossings, etc https://democracy.edinburgh.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=135&MId=5511&Ver=4.

This paper adds to the suggestions in the ‘5 Point Plan’ following further feedback and highlights some specific locations we’d like to see given early and urgent attention to. Living Streets Edinburgh Group is keen to contribute ideas on how Edinburgh should respond, in line with council decisions of 14 May.

2) Pavement Widening

In addition to those already suggested, we want to see consideration given to widening pavements in all of Edinburgh’s ‘town centres’. These are now experiencing queuing on pavements as more shops open and often leave insufficient space for people walking.  Key public transport routes (notably at Waverley and Haymarket) should also be given priority. Other streets which should be widened include Broughton Street and Balgreen Rpad.

3) Road closures

Our ‘five point plan’ suggested closing many residential roads through barriers (‘filters’, which allow people to walk or cycle through) – rather than by banning motor traffic completely, (as at Silverknowes Road, Braid Road etc).  We would like to see a response to this suggestion which could transform many neighbourhoods.

We don’t support the plan to close Viewforth (canal section) to motor traffic, owing to the impact this will have on Yeaman Place, a busy pedestrian street (outside of school times) which is full or parked cars and lacking in any kind of pedestrian crossing facilities. We would prefer to see Yeaman Place itself closed; or at least with mitigation measures such as formal pedestrian crossings introduced.

We want to see the council to show some urgency re-opening the established right of way at Holy Corner, Bruntsfield/Morningside (McLaren’s pub, the former Bank of Scotland).  Signature pubs have illegally blocked this Right of Way for over six months and yet the council has taken no enforcement action, despite the added need for social distancing on the busy, narrow pavement.

4) Guardrails

We welcome the council’s plans to start removing some guardrails as part of temporary cycle schemes (such as Crewe Road South, Old Dalkeith Road). Guardrail removal should not be solely as part of cycle schemes but should also be undertaken where it has particularly adverse impacts on walking.  There are numerous suggestions for guardrail removal in the ‘Tackling Pavement Clutter’ reports sent to Locality Roads Managers in 2019. Other specific locations we want to see guardrails removed are:

  • Morrison Street / Gardners Cres (with associated widened footway). Also north side of Morrison Street, east of Dewar Place.
  • Slateford Road between Ashley Terrace and Robertson Ave (with associated widened footway).
  • Roseburn Street under rail bridge (with associated widened footway).
  • Murrayburn Road (West of Hailsland Road).
  • Polwarth (at roundabout).
  • Colinton Mains Road (at Tesco roundabout)
  • West Port (North side).

5) Enforcement

Many LS supporters have asked for more enforcement of traffic laws, especially speeding (a police matter). Parking enforcement is also going to become even more important to ensure that temporary pavements and cycle lanes are not compromised by illegal parking, loading or waiting. We suggest that a zero tolerance approach is take to such infringements (ie removing any ‘grace period’) so that motorists quickly understand that new traffic restrictions will be enforced rigorously.

In some areas, traffic calming should be introduced. In recent years, there has been too little focus on engineering measures to support compliance with speed limits and we would like to see measures introduced in speeding problem areas.

6) Schools

Although it appears that schools will not generally begin to open until mid-August, we want to see early planning for school re-opening. Measures that should be considered include:

  • extension of the Council’s ‘School Streets’ initiative to ban cars from near the entrances to more schools;
  • engagement with Police Scotland to ensure that a degree of police presence is available to achieve effective enforcement of traffic laws;
  • very clear and early messaging to parents encouraging children to walk, scoot, wheel or cycle. Car drop-off’s should be explicitly discouraged, and not permitted in the vicinity of school gates.

7) Other measures

We have not yet seen any response to our request for removal of street clutter as a ‘quick win’ to aid walking and social distancing. As with guardrails the Council already has a policy of de-cluttering which should be accelerated at the present time.

We want to see public campaigns by the council asking residents to cut back hedges which block pavements and are illegal. Many residents probably do not realise this, or the problems that encroaching vegetation can cause. The council should also take enforcement measures itself, recovering costs where voluntary compliance cannot be achieved.  Due regard should be given to protecting wildlife and nesting birds in particular.

We want to see urgent improvements for people to cross the road, especially in reducing ‘wait times’ for the green man. We look forward to seeing a list of locations where these will be trialled as soon as possible.