Four reasons why we don’t need more parking on Leith Walk

A small group of traders on Leith Walk have launched a last ditch campaign to prevent a cut of 34 parking spaces on Leith Walk, even though there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the 104 that are likely to remain will be plenty.

Those behind the campaign have launched a petition which asserts that the changes will be harmful to local businesses.

The new campaign has already been criticised by Leith councillor Gordon Munro for misrepresenting the true extent of the plans for the lower half of Leith Walk.

So to be clear, the current proposals will see a reduction in car parking spaces between Pilrig Street and the Foot of the Walk of 34 parking places. Should the plans go through there will remain a total of 104 parking places on that part of the street.

The people behind the campaign make no reference to why it is proposed that parking spaces are being cut, and they don’t acknowledge that the changes could benefit some local traders, so for clarity we will make the arguments again.

Taking bins off the pavement

One of the main reasons that spaces are being lost is to banish bins from the pavement.

The council proposes to bring in tighter controls on how businesses store waste from January and to move many of the remaining bins from the pavement into the parking lane. The bins that remain will therefore not present an obstacle to people with mobility problems or present such an eye-sore to people.

Any Leith Walk business that relies on outdoor seating, or has ambitions of outdoor seating, or relies on people wanting to come and spend time on the street – perhaps eating a meal and looking out the window – might want to consider whether prioritising parking over reducing street clutter is really in their best interests.

Many local people support less parking

Every public consultation, – even ones in which local businesses have been involved – has shown that more local people would prefer to see wider pavements and safer streets rather than more car parking on Leith Walk. To a limited extent, some parking spaces have been lost to provide for cycle parking, or pedestrian crossings. The traders leading this last minute campaign for more parking spaces make no reference to the extensive call from other local people for a street that is more balanced towards other transport modes.

54% of households in the Leith Walk ward have no access to a car. Before businesses join this latest campaign perhaps owners should ask themselves whether it really makes sense to continue to ignore the needs of the majority of their local customers, by making it less appealing and more dangerous for them to get to their local shops?

Better regulation of parking spaces can “create more spaces.”

All the evidence shows, even in Leith Walk, that better parking regulation would have the same effect as creating more parking spaces. The “free” parking on Leith Walk is currently a wild west, with enforcers unable to tell effectively how long cars have been parked in what remains of the greenways.

Leith Business Association members themselves have acknowledged that some businesses owners on Leith Walk may really be upset over proposals to cut the number of spaces on Leith Walk because they will be unable to park outside their own business all day. So for some it isn’t really about their customers at all.

In addition, double parking in some places presents a clear hazard for other vehicles trying to use the street. Again better regulation, that ensures genuine customers can stop for thirty minutes to make a purchase, whilst deterring irresponsible and long-term parking is the solution. The reason for re-designing the street is that it will help, to some extent, “design out” this type of bad behaviour.

This New York study, shows how cutting the amount of time that people park for has the effect of creating hundreds of new spaces. This in turn increases the number of unique visitors to the area and boosts trading revenue. We don’t need more spaces – we need smarter enforcement.

The health argument

Air pollution in Scotland is killing off 2000 people each year, and Leith Walk is a road safety black spot. If there is chance to design streets that will help people to stay safe and lead healthier lives it should be taken – rather than locking in car use at the expense of other road users and residents.

The real problem with regeneration of Leith Walk? 

Quite simply it’s taking too long. It is undoubtedly a hideously unpleasant irony that Leithers will see Leith Walk dug up again in 2014, whilst elsewhere in the city there will be people celebrating “trams finally being completed,” but that is a separate, albeit very frustrating, issue.

What the council says:

Commenting on the latest campaign, Transport Convener Lesley Hinds said: “If you look at the drawings on the Leith plans, you’ll see that there will be 107 parking spaces, down from 141 at present. A number of the spaces which would no longer be available for parking would instead house communal refuse bins, freeing up the pavements for improved pedestrian access.

“We fully appreciate that it is essential for businesses and residents to have access to parking and loading facilities, and have sought to ensure that these are provided at the most suitable locations to meet local demand. Parking bays have been included within the design for businesses and residents on both sides of Leith Walk between Pilrig Street and Constitution Street/Duke Street. In addition, a number of loading bays are proposed to support businesses. This will ensure dedicated facilities for businesses to load/unload throughout the day, whilst these can also be used for parking between 6.30pm and 7.30am.

“Dedicated cycle, motorcycle and Disabled parking bays are also included as part of the design.

“Finally, it must be remembered that the plans have been shaped to cater to all users of Leith Walk: residents, businesses, pedestrians, cyclists, bus passengers and car users.”

Comment on the detailed plans for Leith Walk between Pilrig Street to the Foot of the Walk

If you would like to comment on the plans – you can comment in support of reducing parking spaces too – then you can view the formal TRO documents and find details of how to respond to the consultation on the draft Traffic Regulation Order here.

Written by Ally Tibbitt

Ally Tibbitt is a member of Greener Leith. He looks after this website.

  • Helen Hare

    Thanks Ali for this timely response. I’d not signed the petition because something about it didn’t sit right with me, although I couldn’t put my finger on what. I’d forgotten, for example, about the plans to reduce the bins-on-pavements burden, which I am entirely in favour of. You do an excellent service here.

  • Rob Munn

    Thanks for posting this. Saw the petition online and thought something wasn’t quite right. Spoke to a local councillor today who said much the same as the above.