A council report released today has left many Leithers disappointed in both the lack of detail and ambition of the proposals.
The report confirms rumours that the initial £3.2million earmarked for post tram public realm improvements to Leith Walk and Constitution Street will not be enough to fix the street.
Officers now seek approval from the 31st July Finances and Resources Committee to spend a further £2.3million making good the damage done by the aborted tram works in the area.
The report also reveals the extent of the extended tram trauma Leithers must prepare for. Road works on Constitution Street and Leith Walk will start in September 2012 and will not be complete until Christmas 2013.
But even though officers provide these estimated dates, they also acknowledge in the report that approximately a third of the work that is required “remains to be scoped and agreed.”
And although it would appear council officers have put in place a commitment to address 5 out of the top 20 ideas local residents say they would like to see implemented on Leith Walk, already there has been disappointment that the report contains no commitment to put in place segregated cycle lanes on the street.
This idea – segregated cycle lanes – was the most popular idea that emerged from the Vision for Leith Walk Consultation, and it was also strongly supported by respondents to the councils own parallel consultation process.
Even though more people voted for this single idea in the Vision for Leith Consultation (at least 212), than the total number of people who attended the council led consultation (around 60) the report put forward to councillors barely references the issue.
Indeed, although the officers say that they will finalise the details of environmental improvements after the approval of the report, it is clear some of the specific actions listed for approval in the July report are likely to prohibit the construction of segregated cycle lanes on the street.
In the appendix of the report which describes the scope of the proposed works council officers say that the pavement ‘build-outs’ that were removed during the tram works will be reinstated.
It is highly likely that this work will be incompatible with adding segregated cycle lanes on the street.
Similarly proposals to reinstate some traffic islands on the street could also take up road space which could be used for cycle lanes. And whilst some council officers insist that segregated cycle lanes are physically impossible to fit into the width of the street other experts beg to differ.
A report commissioned by SPOKES to inform the design of the tram on the street provided officers with example transects that show that even at the streets narrowest points segregated lanes could be installed. All it would take is a bit of vision…
Despite all this it seems council officers involved in the project seem to have omitted any reporting of the final results of the Vision for Leith Walk community-led consultation to councillors, even though that it appears nearly 10 times more people participated in the independent Leith Walk poll run by local volunteers than the consultation run by the professional community engagement workers.
We also note that the council report does little to address many of the other ideas that feature in the top 20 Vision for Leith Walk list.
For example, no mention is made of street markets, improving the adjacent brown field sites, publishing a list of shop owners, providing free public toilets or tackling anti-social behaviour, such as double parking, on the street, or exploring the feasibility of the Green Bridge of the Walk.
Given that Leithers are now bracing themselves for at least another 16 months of tram pain many will be asking themselves whether this ‘back to 2008’ plan is really the best response council officers can come up with to address local aspirations for the future of the Walk?
Needless to say Greener Leith volunteers will be seeking to make a deputation to the committee in order to ensure that local views are properly considered by local councillors before they approve this report.
In the interim, if you would like to see the council take the ideas contained in the Vision for Leith Walk top 20 ideas list more seriously, please do write to both your local councillors and indeed the convenor of the finance and resource committee, Cllr Alasdair Rankin, to let him know which ideas you would like to see supported.
Below you can see how people reacted on Twitter to the announcement.