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City Centre Transformation

Answers to frequently asked questions

Rationale

Why is the transformation strategy for the city centre necessary?

Street closures

Could closing streets in the city centre to traffic cause more congestion through traffic displacement? 

Could closing streets in the city centre to traffic cause air pollution through displacement? 

Could closing streets to traffic in the city centre mean people with disabilities will be excluded from the city centre? 

Impacts on residents and business

Will pedestrianisation and pedestrian prioritisation have a negative impact on businesses? 

What will be the impact of making all these changes?

How will the projects and interventions be introduced?

How will residents and businesses maintain car access for parking and deliveries?

Why do you need to reduce the number of cars in the city centre when everyone is moving to electric and other LEZ compliant vehicles (which means pollution will reduce anyway)? 

Funding

How will the changes be funded?

Evaluation

How will the success of the strategy be evaluated?

Consultation and feedback

What can I do if I don’t like any part of the strategy?

How can you say you are really reflecting public opinion in this strategy?

Related projects

How does the Transformation Strategy link with other policies/projects?

Are the City Mobility Plan and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) proposals part of the Transformation Strategy and how do I respond to them?

How do the Meadows to George Street proposals link with the Transformation Strategy?

How do the George Street and First New Town proposals link with the Transformation Strategy?

Is Open Streets part of the transformation strategy?

Is it possible to link air pollution to vehicles simply by reviewing one-off events?

Is the Trams extension part of the Transformation Strategy?

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Rationale

Why is the Transformation Strategy for the city centre necessary?

Edinburgh is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK and presents a number of challenges which need to be addressed to deliver a sustainable future:

  • the speed of population growth, including an elderly population which is increasing.
  • the pressure on space for people to walk and cycle in the city centre.
  • rising health concerns resulting from poor air quality and physical inactivity.
  • climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions eg from vehicular traffic.

The transformation strategy aims to create:

  • a coordinated, strategic approach to managing the city.
  • a safer, more secure and healthier atmosphere for everyone.

It will aim to reshape Edinburgh through a series of changes which aim to significantly improve public spaces and prioritise movement on foot, bike and public transport, ahead of cars.

These changes reflect feedback residents gave during earlier consultation on the project (see How can you say you are really reflecting public opinion in this strategy?).

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Street closures

Could closing streets in the city centre to traffic cause more congestion through traffic displacement?

Evidence from other parts of the UK and around the world have highlighted that selective, carefully planned street closures, along with other pedestrian priority measures and wider supporting measures, can help reduce the number of car journeys people make.

Example: When Oxford restricted private car access to the city centre, traffic levels dropped by an average of 20 per cent over a 12-month period without displacement or congestion in outer areas. Other examples include Wolverhampton, Warsaw, Seine in Paris.

Source: European Commission report on Reclaiming city streets for people Chaos or quality of life? 

Could closing streets in the city centre to traffic cause air pollution through displacement?

While closing streets has the potential to displace traffic, it does encourage people to use alternative forms of transport to the car, such as public transport, cycling and walking. Supportive measures in the wider city are also proposed in the strategy to help reduce overall traffic levels entering and crossing the city centre to minimise displacement of traffic to other areas. These wider measures would be taken forward through the wider City Mobility Plan and associated action plans, including investment in segregated cycling routes, expanded park and ride provision, improvements to public transport services and cutting journey times. Reduced traffic may also help improve air quality, particularly at a number of pollution hotspots where tall buildings limit the dispersion of emissions, which can often exceed legal limits.

Example: Restrictions on traffic introduced as a result of the Edinburgh School Streets programme led to 2,259 fewer vehicle movements; walking increased by up to 12 per cent and nitrous oxide levels reduced by more than 50 per cent around the schools.

SourceThe City of Edinburgh Council report to committee on school streets pilot evaluation

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Could closing streets to traffic in the city centre mean people with disabilities will be excluded from the city centre?

The changes proposed are to ensure the city centre is a much more pleasant and safe place to be for people with physical and sensory impairments, including those who need to drive. The way we put the strategy together will follow global best practice to ensure we not only improve city centre access for people with disabilities but for those on low incomes as well. The need to prioritise blue badge provision (as well as parking for residents) is highlighted in the strategy and additional supportive measures such as an expanded shopmobility scheme (scooters/mobility aid free loan scheme) are also proposed.

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Impacts on residents and businesses

Will pedestrianisation and pedestrian prioritisation have a negative impact on businesses?

There is considerable evidence to suggest pedestrianisation will increase footfall for businesses.

Example: Pedestrianisation of Times Square in New York led to a 22 per cent increase in economic activity between 2007 and 2011.

Source: Future Places leadership case studies 

Example: A review of London schemes demonstrated that improvements for pedestrian and cycling access increased the number of people visiting a street by 93 per cent, reduced empty shops by 17 per cent and people on foot, bike and public transport spent 40 per cent more in a month than those in cars.

Source: Transport for London media release, November 2018

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What will be the impact of making all these changes?

The strategy aims to deliver a wide range of improvements for residents and other people who use the city centre while minimising any negative outcomes.

Positive steps include enhancing public spaces to better support life in the city, prioritising movement on foot, bike and public transport in central streets, ahead of cars, and improving access and opportunity for everyone.

How will the projects and interventions be introduced?

A 10-year delivery plan is being prepared for September 2019 which aims to ensure the benefits of each proposal within the strategy are fully realised and they are introduced with as little disruption as possible.

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How will residents and businesses maintain car access for parking and deliveries?

Resident parking will be prioritised over pay and display although some residents will have to walk slightly further to certain streets.

Deliveries will be available to all addresses, either at set times of the day and/or through lighter vehicles accessing certain streets.

Why do you need to reduce the number of cars in the city centre when everyone is moving to electric and other LEZ compliant vehicles (which means pollution will reduce anyway)?

Not everyone is moving to electric vehicles, or those which are expected to comply with forthcoming Low Emission Zone (LEZ) regulations.

Air quality issues caused by vehicles will primarily be addressed through the LEZ while the Transformation Strategy will focus on prioritising what limited space there is in the city centre for people traveling on foot, by bike and on public transport, ahead of vehicles

The volume of vehicles, including those parked, restrict the efficient and safe movement of pedestrians and cyclists in the city centre, creating particular problems for people who are less mobile.

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Funding

How will the changes be funded?

The funding required to deliver a strategy of this scale is recognised to be significant and will depend on the development of a specific funding approach. This approach will be developed during the summer of 2019, and a funding plan for this Strategy will be included and reported within the Delivery Plan in September 2019.

Evaluation

How will the success of the strategy be evaluated?

Following the outcomes of the public consultation process, the Final Strategy will outline a monitoring framework which will include specific metrics, timescales and methods of reporting progress as part of the Delivery Plan.

Progress on the Strategy will ultimately be measured in terms of its outcomes in relation to wellbeing, climate change resilience, live-ability and economic growth.

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Consultation and feedback

What can I do if I don’t like any part of the strategy?

The strategy is in draft form and so nothing has been decided at this stage. If there are specific areas that cause concern, we are encouraging people to have their say as part of this consultation (until 28 June).

Consultation feedback will be considered in preparing the final strategy.

As detailed proposals are developed for specific projects, each of these will be consulted on in their own right.

How can you say you are really reflecting public opinion in this strategy?

Consultation feedback will be considered in preparing the final strategy. Extensive consultation during 2018 highlighted that people want to see radical changes made to the way we use our city. In Oct/Nov 2018, more than 4,000 people contributed their views to our survey:

  • 88% said they wanted to see changes to the way the city centre is managed.
  • The majority of respondents (51%) said they wanted a more radical approach to the issues raised in delivering a city fit for the future.
  • Three quarters of respondents supported traffic reduction in the city and town centres.

The full results are available via the website www.edinburghcitycentre.info  

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Related projects

How does the Transformation Strategy link with other policies/projects?

The Transformation Strategy is part of a coordinated approach to city centre planning and management. This means linking the Transformation Strategy with policies and projects including:

  • Low Emission Zone
  • City Mobility Plan
  • City Plan 2030
  • Developments such as George Street New Town and Meadows to George Street.

Are the City Mobility Plan and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) proposals part of the Transformation Strategy and how do I respond to them?

The Edinburgh City Centre Transformation Strategy, The City Mobility Plan and LEZs are three inter-related projects that make up the ‘Connecting our city, transforming our places’ programme. The City Mobility Plan will introduce measures to significantly reduce unnecessary vehicle journeys through the city centre as part of a package of measures to achieve a ‘cleaner, safer, inclusive and accessible transport system’ following extensive stakeholder engagement. Further consultation will take place on the City Mobility Plan later in 2019.

The Edinburgh LEZ project is focused on reducing emissions in the city and will be assisted by the proposed changes outlined in the Transformation Strategy, which aims to help address climate change and poor air quality. A consultation on Edinburgh’s proposed LEZ is being held from 20 May to 12 July 2019.

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How do the Meadows to George Street proposals link with the Transformation Strategy?

Consultation on significant cycling and walking improvements on the route between the Meadows and George Street is part of the proposed Transformation Strategy. Measures include the closure of Bank Street to general traffic and pedestrian priority on Forrest Road. The consultation is taking place from 27 May to 8 July 2019.

How do the George Street and First New Town proposals link with the Transformation Strategy?

George Street and First New Town proposals are closely aligned to the Transformation Strategy, LEZ and the City Mobility Plan. The proposals, approved by the Council’s Transport and Environment Committee in May 2019, include a set of fundamental design changes to transform the area. The proposals build on extensive consultation with the community, businesses and other stakeholders, as well as a trial layout and subsequent research in 2014 and 2015. These seek to deliver a welcoming and accessible street environment through a range of solutions, including wider pavements, new seating areas and a segregated cycleway, with delivery to be integrated into the Edinburgh City Centre Transformation delivery plan.

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Is Open Streets part of the transformation strategy?

Edinburgh Open Streets is part of efforts to plan for the city centre’s transformation and testing options to get the right balance in the future. The 18-month trial of Open Streets Edinburgh began in May 2019 tests the impacts of closing a small number of roads in the city centre to motorised transport. Closures are based on a loop of streets in the Old Town, beginning with a short section of the loop and gradually building in scale over time.

Is it possible to link air pollution to vehicles simply by reviewing one-off events?

While measuring air quality and meeting legal standards is complex, there is considerable evidence to show that reducing traffic will have a positive impact on air quality – evidence includes our air quality models and on-street testing. Reviewing experimental initiatives provides valuable additional information however.

Example: During the London Marathon in 2018, when road closures made large areas of the city tricky to access by car and people tended to take public transport, there was an 89 per cent reduction in Central London air pollution.

Source:  The Standard, article on drop in air pollution figures, London 

Is the trams extension project part of the Transformation Strategy?

The extension of the tram line to Newhaven has been approved and is progressing. It will support the Transformation Strategy by contributing to a truly connected, sustainable city centre.  

Subject to consultation and in association with further expansion of the tram network to the south-east of the city, potential exists to provide a second cross-city centre tram link to the south of the city centre.

This would connect Haymarket Station, offices in the West End and at Morrison Street with key areas for opportunities in innovation and collaboration associated with the University of Edinburgh, the Quartermile and the Futures Institute, potentially supporting the regeneration of surrounding communities.

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