Almost all completed changes to Edinburgh roads implemented under the controversial “Spaces for People programme” will remain in place for at least another two months – including Silverknowes Road.
The programme comprises a series of measures implemented by the council to increase pedestrian and cycling provisions in the city.
In light of the coronavirus crisis and in order to facilitate social distancing, the Scottish government awarded Edinburgh City Council £5 million to fund the programme and introduce measures including cycle segregation lanes`, widened footpaths and parking bans on more than 40 streets across the city.
Usual consultation processes have been abandoned and instead “key stakeholders” have been given five days to submit feedback on any plans.
Yesterday members of the council’s Policy and Sustainability Committee voted to maintain seven road closures which have been introduced across the city mostly to “create more space for exercise.”
Silverknowes Road will remain closed off to private cars, however buses will now be allowed access.
Council members also voted for cycle segregation lanes to stay in place along Old Dalkeith Road, Crewe Road South, George IV Bridge, Bank St / Mound, Forrest Road and Ferry Road.
Plans were also approved to implement more than 20 further cycle lanes and widened footpaths across the city.
An amendment by the Conservatives requesting the immediate reopening of Braid Road, Silverknowes Road, Links Gardens, Cammo Walk and Stanley/Hope Street was defeated.
Their calls to halt a further 19 changes to roads across Edinburgh were also voted down.
In a Tweet posted yesterday, Council Leader Adam McVey labelled Conservative views of the Spaces for People “regressive” and at the meeting there was a war of words amongst councillors from all parties over the nature of the programme.
Green Cllr Alex Staniforth told the meeting: “We are very supportive of the programme, but there is room for improvement. This is a good programme and I’m astonished that the Conservatives want to take a wrecking ball to it.
“One great thing about lockdown was lack of traffic. It was great to have clear air and to cross the road safely. If we can capture some of that and make it true forever, that would benefit everyone.”
Liberal Democrat Cllr Kevin Lang added: “We agree with the spirit of Spaces for People but with that being said we have some concerns about whether officers working on the programme are doing the right thing all of the time.
“It is fair and reasonable that where there is evidence a programme is causing problems or challenges, it should be changed. There is a strong case for the council to change its approach on Braid Road.”
Liberal Democrat Cllr Robert Aldridge accused the council of showing “arrogance and contempt” toward the public in the way that consultations and feedback have been handled. However, SNP and Labour councillors strongly refuted this claim.
The council is now looking at ways to make some of the Spaces for People road changes permanent, but there is currently no indication as to any specifics.
The council is also going to request further funding from the Scottish Government to expand the Spaces for People programme.
Conservative transport spokesperson, Cllr Susan Webber, said: “If the council administration were not listening today to the views of residents then the same elected members should know the residents about to be so negatively impacted were indeed watching Policy and Sustainability Committee proceedings.
“It’s another tough day but not unexpected as the SNP and Labour rarely accept any amendments from the Edinburgh Conservatives, irrespective of their widespread public support or practical nature.
“I have already received many emails thanking me for supporting and listening to these communities across the city, in particular in East Craigs.
“I will now take this opportunity to commit to work with these residents to ensure the SNP-Labour promises of constructive consultation takes place as soon as possible.”
Edinburgh City Council has been approached for comment.