Council progresses transformative proposals for the city's future

The City of Edinburgh Council has restated its commitment to a sustainable, accessible and connected future for the Capital, putting people at its heart.

Today (Thursday, 16 May), members of the Transport and Environment Committee moved forward a series of strategic reports focusing on creating a more resilient, liveable city, enabled by an exemplar public realm and transport system.

Approval was given to launch a consultation on major proposals under Edinburgh City Centre Transformation (ECCT), a bold strategy to reshape Edinburgh through a series of radical interventions aiming to significantly improve public spaces and prioritise movement on foot, by bike and by public transport. These reflect feedback residents gave during an earlier consultation on the project.

Councillors also gave the green light to begin public engagement on ambitious proposals for Low Emission Zones (LEZ), which, if progressed, would see Edinburgh implement a citywide LEZ. The scheme responds to the threat to public health posed by poor air quality and is supported by initial consultation that saw 75% of residents supporting restrictions on polluting vehicles.

Additionally, committee agreed a proposed draft framework for the City Mobility Plan, which, following extensive stakeholder engagement, proposes a vision, objectives and package of policy measures for achieving a ‘cleaner safer, inclusive and accessible transport system’.

Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, 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.

“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.

“It’s essential that we bring residents along with us as we make these changes, and for this reason we will be consulting on a range of proposals as we refine designs for ECCT, LEZ and Meadows to George Street. I urge the public to take part and have their say, helping us to make sure final designs reflect and balance the desires of as many people as possible.”

Transport and Environment Vice Convener, Councillor Karen Doran, 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.

“It’s down to a great deal of work, research and public engagement that we have been able to get to this point with LEZ, CCT and the City Mobility Plan, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the teams who have facilitated this.

“It’s now down to the public to help us move to the next stage with ECCT and LEZ, and I hope to hear from people across the city on our ambitious proposals.”

Speaking in support of plans for Edinburgh City Centre Transformation, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson said: “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 underway.

“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.

Proposals, which build on extensive consultation with the community, businesses and other stakeholders, as well as a trial layout and subsequent research in 2014 and 2015, seek to deliver a welcoming and accessible street environment through a range of solutions. These 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 Council’s ambitious plans have received backing from a range of organisations.

National Director of Sustrans Scotland, John Lauder said: “We welcome the vision that the City of Edinburgh Council has shown with the City Centre Transformation; adapting a historic city to ensure that residents and visitors have easy access on foot, by bike and by wheel. We are glad that Edinburgh is not shying away from the challenge of creating a more welcoming and equitable environment for everyone.”

The City Centre Transformation project has received funding from the Scottish Government through Sustrans Scotland’s Places for Everyone programme.

Speaking in support of Edinburgh’s Low Emission Zone proposals, John Bynorth, Policy and Communications Officer at Environmental Protection Scotland, said: “Edinburgh’s historic streets have been dominated by vehicle traffic for too long and today’s decision by the Transport and Environment Committee will inspire and motivate the city’s residents and workers to move away from the car to walking, cycling and public transport which will benefit the environment and their health.”

Consultations on proposals for Edinburgh City Centre Transformation, Low Emission Zones and Meadows to George Street proposals will begin this month –

  • Edinburgh City Centre Transformation - Proposed Strategy – 20 May – 1 July
  • Low Emission Zones – 20 May – 12 July
  • Meadows to George Street: Streets for People – 27 May – 8 July

Reports to Transport and Environment Committee can be downloaded from the Council website. The webcast recording of Transport and Environment Committee can also be viewed online.

Published: May 16th 2019