Transport and Environment Convener and Vice Convener: Looking ahead to a 'transformative' 2019

2019’s shaping up to be another transformative year – by Councillors Lesley Macinnes and Karen Doran, Convener and Vice Convener of Transport and Environment for the City of Edinburgh Council

We and our partners have made huge strides in 2018 towards making Edinburgh a more active, healthy and connected city, with a greater focus on people and place.

We set the agenda for the year with discussions with key organisations and community groups on issues and opportunities for the future to be addressed through Edinburgh’s new City Mobility Plan (successor to the Local Transport Strategy), Low Emission Zones (LEZ) development and the transformation of our city centre

The pressures that our growing city faces shone through, whether in terms of managing congestion, improving access for those on foot, bike and public transport or the need to create an inclusive city for people of all ages and abilities.

Edinburgh’s two-day Summer Summit in June - linking with National Clean Air Day - showcased George Street as a vehicle-free public space alongside workshops and debates. In November, exciting new design concepts for the historic street were shared with the city for the first time, showing the potential of a future layout for the First New Town, which we are consulting on until 25 January 2019.

Feedback from the Summer Summit street closures has led directly to the ‘Open Streets’ programme. Open Streets events – the first of which we hope to stage in 2019 - will see selected streets closed to motor traffic to allow the city and town centres to be experienced as quieter, more people-focused places on the first Sunday of each month.

Over the summer, we also took forward on-street and online engagement on initial proposals for works to transform the quality of walking, cycling, accessibility for all and public spaces between the Meadows and George Street. Meanwhile, the game-changing City Centre West to East Link project to improve walking and cycle provision, as well as enhance public realm, also continues apace. In 2019 we will see improvements to cycle infrastructure around St Mary’s Cathedral in Palmerston Place, as well as construction of a two-way segregated cycleway on York Place between North St Andrew Street and Elder Street.

As a Council we are committed to taking an ambitious and comprehensive approach to developing LEZs in Edinburgh, with considerable encouragement from the Scottish Government and working in cooperation with Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen. Poor air quality, largely due to traffic emissions, has a disproportionally high impact on the health of our most vulnerable citizens. In 2019, detailed proposals for Edinburgh’s LEZ will come forward, aiming to control the impact of the most polluting vehicles.

We continue to work closely with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency to develop a model that provides robust evidence for us to make LEZ decisions. We have also secured funding from Transport Scotland to support the development of LEZs. In the future, vehicles used in Edinburgh need to be clean-fuelled. To help prepare for alternative fuelled vehicles, in October we became the first UK authority to approve ambitious plans for a strategic, citywide network of electric vehicle charging points.

Autumn saw a convergence of our vision and ideas for the future (generated from stakeholder engagement in the spring) with our major public consultation "Edinburgh: connecting our city, transforming our places". Between online, bus shelter and radio ads , and public events the consultation reached over 5,000 people. Huge thanks to everyone who took the time to take part and have their say, and to all our partners who are supporting this exciting project. We were thrilled to see so much encouraging and constructive feedback to the ideas, ranging from widening pavements and improving public spaces through to improving the management of freight and impact of large vehicles on the city centre and neighbourhood streets. 

To ensure we deliver a fairer, more connected, thriving and inspired Edinburgh, it will also be crucial to co-ordinate our vision for mobility and the city centre with ongoing preparation of Edinburgh’s next local development plan, City Plan 2030, due to begin its consultation in early 2019.

Helping our streets become as accessible as possible for everyone – and particularly those with mobility or sight impairment, wheelchair-users and people pushing prams – is vital. We’re determined to crack down on street clutter in general and the first phase of this – a ban on advertising boards (A-boards) – came into effect a couple of months ago. Already we’re seeing the benefits, with pavement space freed up and potentially dangerous obstacles removed.

It’s absolutely crucial we learn from what’s worked elsewhere, which is why we’ve made really useful visits to other cities (such as London and Oslo) to see the best examples of placemaking and people-friendly design. 

And just as we’re gaining invaluable insights from other cities, there’s a growing appetite internationally too to learn how Edinburgh’s transformation programme is going. Project Director Daisy Narayanan recently addressed representatives from 35 countries in Geneva at the invitation of the World Health Organisation, we’ve presented at the Liveable City Conference at the Danish Embassy and also shared insights into how Edinburgh’s transformation programme is going at EUROCITIES when it arrived in the Capital last month. 

We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved this year, and are looking forward very much to the New Year, where we will present draft strategies to transform our city centre and to redefine how we move people and goods around the city to improve quality of life and opportunity for all of Edinburgh. This is a really exciting time for the Capital and we’ve got a lot of work to do – but we’ll give it everything we’ve got. Future generations would expect nothing less. 

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