Submitted by ella on Sun, 22/12/2013 - 13:57

Strong reactions have greeted City of Edinburgh Council's roll-out of Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) 13/51 for Leith Walk as part of the new improvements.

Objections to the loss of up to 80 parking spaces come particularly from local shops and services, alarmed at potential loss of trade. Among these, a petition is now circulating in printed form and via social media.

Started by businessman Gordon Burgess, the petition's preamble reads:

'At the moment Leith Walk has parking spaces available for the use of the public and for it's businesses. Edinburgh council are going to take all parking spaces away from Pilrig Street down to the foot of Leith Walk with the above TRO. 80 spaces potentially could be taken and 34 spaces WILL. Local businesses rely on these spaces for their business. This TRO will be harmful for business in Leith, and is  directly contradicting the council's reinstatement plans. Trams for Leith =no parking. No trams for Leith = still no parking! Please help us stop this by signing this petition to be presented to Edinburgh council by 6th of January 2014.'

Burgess accuses the Council of a U-turn, with around 34 spaces to be lost in the first phase of work between Pilrig Street and the Foot of the Walk. 'For the avoidance of any doubt,' he writes, 'promises were made by the Council that, when the decision NOT to bring the Tram down Leith Walk was taken, complete re-instatement of the roads and pavements would become a priority. Not only has this NOT been a priority but the Council have attempted to muddy the waters with several unnecessary "consultations" which has finally resulted in the TRO we are now being presented with. REDUCED PARKING was never mentioned.'

The Council says that the TROs are needed in order to:

  • change waiting and locading restrictions or prohibitions
  • change bus lanes and bus stops
  • change disabled parking bays
  • introduce motorcycle and cycle parking bays
  • relocate domestic waste bins into dedicated road space.

You can view the plans and read the supporting documentation by following this link.

Burgess's view that consultation by the Council has been a deliberate ploy to 'muddy the waters' is a new angle on the process which, as reported last week, is already regarded as a deeply flawed exercise by those stakeholders who are trying to take part in it. You can view that article, with subsequent Twitter thread, at Breaking news (17.12.13).

The bigger picture

Since 2009 (when tramworks began to disable Leith Walk), Leith Walk has been the object of enormous scrutiny and reappraisal.

Varied interest groups – residents, businesses, pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, bus operators – have inevitably brought different priorities to the street's re-instatement or improvement, and controversy has always been a likely consequence. However, recent figures show that this is far from being some parochial dispute simply about road access and use.

The debate is at the heart of – and runs through the heart of – a teeming residential area.

In October, the Council published a distillation of results from the 2011 Census. Among other findings, this Planning Information Bulletin 11/2013 shows that the Leith Walk area (including part of Broughton, south of Pilrig Street) has the highest local population density of anywhere in Scotland.

The highest local population density of anywhere in Scotland

Since 2001, the same Bulletin shows that the area has seen a 30 per cent population increase:

'... with a peak of nearly 26,000 people resident within an 800 metre radius (equivalent to a density of 12,900 persons per sq.km.)'.

Locals will be aware that even these attention-grabbing statistics are now dated, and that the situation on the ground has moved on. New homes are squeezing into brownfield sites in the neighbourhood, and applications for further large-scale developments are already navigating their way through the planning system.

The changes to Leith Walk are estimated to be completed in 2015. It remains to be seen whether, at this late stage, interested parties can yet find a way to work together on what is a complicated and important urban-design project.

Tell us what you think. You can contact us by email spurtle@hotmail.co.uk or Twitter @theSpurtle or Facebook Broughton Spurtle

Image top-right: Wikimedia Commons


A lively correspondence kicked off today (Monday 22.123.13) when Leith's Councillor Gordon Munro responded to correspondents, stakeholders, media and fellow politicians regarding the petition. He pulled no punches: 

'I am not clear who has set the petition up but they have not taken the time to read any of the information that can be found here and the links therein to the actual plans themselves.

'The petition states that all spaces from Pilrig Street down Leith Walk will be lost. In fact from  a start point of 141 spaces there will be 107 spaces on the drawings which can be found in the links. The space before and after is the same size 5 metres and has taken into account comments in discussion with LBA [Leith Business Association] in moving build outs, bus stop changes, cycle parking bays, motorcycle parking bay and bin bays from the discussions held.

'It also does not take into account the ongoing work to see where other spaces can be found around Leith Walk to compensate for this loss of 34 spaces. I have made suggestions such as dual use of Allander House spaces to make up for this loss. I am sure others will have their own ideas on this as well.

Whilst car parking spaces are important the plans reflect all users of Leith Walk residents, businesses , pedestrians , cyclists , bus passengers and car users.

Your remark about signing ‘if you agree’ is sound. If people take the trouble to actually find out what the petition claims and what is actually happening then at least they will be fully informed rather than misinformed.'

Mansour Marouf – of Leith Walk's Able School of Motoring – replied to Cllr Munro in a similar spirit of festive compromise:

'Thanks for the long reply to tell businesses in Leith Walk that the consultation is NOT worth the paper it was written on, as the Edinburgh council does what it wants and NEVER take the needs of the businesses and the residents into consideration.

'The Edinburgh Council has been very dishonest with the Leith Businesses Association in this matter concerning the loss of Parking spaces. We have always been told that Leith Walk will be reinstated to its pre-tram state. Now Trams are NOT coming down Leith walk, but businesses still have to suffer again due to the mismanagement of tram project and loss of parking spaces. The Edinburgh council have ruined many businesses in Leith Walk.

'As for the online petition, it did not have to exist if the Edinburgh Council had not reneged on its promises.'

Another local businessman – 'Gordon' from the Bedshop – also responded to Cllr Munro:

'The simple fact is that Leith Walk was promised re-instatement over two years ago.

'Forget all the pointless, time consuming consultations.The state of the roads and pavements on Leith Walk would simply not have been tolerated had they been in the City Centre, they would have been fixed ages ago. This is Leith however and we are well down the pecking order with respect to the Council.

'This TRO has been designed with one eye on a tram project which, quite frankly, most people in Leith would rather forget.If you read the comments from the 230+ people who have signed the online petition there is a very common thread and one which you and your fellow Councillors would do well to take on board.
    34 fewer parking spaces between Pilrig and the foot of the Walk.
    80 fewer parking spaces from the top to the foot of the Walk in its entirety.

'The possibility of 'alternative' parking is a non-starter, you're merely shifting the problem from one place to another.
'After everything Leith has had to contend with from June 2007, we're now nearly into 2014 with no tram and now potentially much less parking as well.

For a related story (and evolving responses) on the Leith Walk Stakeholder Consultation, see Breaking news (17.12.13).