June 20, 2019
One of our local councillors Gavin Corbett, summarises a lengthy report recently published on parking.
Parking is a topic that is seldom away from my in-box as a councillor, with queries coming in all shapes and sizes. It’s a topic that excites strong opinions. So getting the response right is important.
Let’s start with a basic arithmetical point. In a city with finite space, car parking has to compete with a number of other priorities: sometimes directly, in case of bins and bike stores, sometimes more indirectly in case of safe crossing points, trees or green space, space for people to sit or children to play. Streets or public places which are dominated by car-parking are much less attractive. So the direction of policy has to be towards demand reduction – easing the pressure on space by promoting and supporting alternatives – like cycling and walking, public transport and, where cars are used, through car-sharing and pooling. The best European cities are already way ahead of Edinburgh on this.
But here and now we can and should manage limited space better. That is why, as one of the three councillors for Fountainbridge-Craiglockhart I have welcomed a more comprehensive review of parking pressures in the area which was reported to the council’s Transport and Environment Committee on 20 June 2019 (held over from the 16 May meeting). Described as a strategic review, it is not quite that – however, it does apply a consistent method across all areas and there is merit in that. At times the review, carried out by independent consultants, shows a lack of detailed knowledge of areas: calling the Hutchison area “Gorgie” for example or not appreciating the parking pressures at Meggetland are weekend pressures, to take another example, but overall, it presents a fair picture of the area, as someone who has lived here for almost 30 years.
So, let me pick up some observations.
Part of the area, from Tollcross to Harrison Road is already covered by a controlled parking zone so is not featured in the review.
For the remainder, the area which emerges as highest for pressure – indeed one of the highest for the whole city – is Shandon. That will come as no surprise to residents here, especially residents who have witnessed various faltering proposals over the last 10-15 years to tackle it. The scale of pressure described plus the proximity to the existing controlled zone means that the area is identified as being in phase 1 for introduction of measures to manage parking – see more below.
Shandon is a reasonably self-contained neighbourhood but there is always a risk that if action is taken here, there will be displacement of pressure further along Slateford Road. That is why the report also recommends parking controls in the area called “Gorgie” in the report (it would be more accurate to describe at as the Hermands and Appin Terrace to the south of Slateford Road and Hutchison, between Slateford Green and Chesser Avenue). South of Slateford Road is high density flats and tenements with limited street space (although some newer flats have dedicated parking). In the Hutchison area, the pressure is not as acute but some streets like Hutchison Crossway and Road can get busy, while others like Hutchison Medway are very narrow, typical of a council estate built between the wars.
Potential displaced pressure is also an issue to the other side of Shandon, heading out along Polwarth Terrace and Colinton Road; however, the pattern is more mixed. First of all, densities are much lower as one gets towards Craiglockhart where bungalows and private driveways are the norm. Secondly, there are already some controls in the case of a controlled parking zone almost as far as the Kilted Pig pub and a priority parking area in Craiglockhart Terrace. Thirdly, some of the pressures are very locality specific: from pavement parking on Meggetland Terrace, displacement from Napier University to the top end of Craiglockhart, from Edinburgh Leisure to Meggetland Wynd and from the construction of the new Royal Edinburgh hospital into Meadowspot. So the responses are similarly varied. Meadowspot, for example, is to get further yellow lines as its form of controls, as part of further action on Myreside Road which is becoming increasingly chaotic for bad parking.
In Meggetland Terrace, part of what is called “Area B8” in the report, I carried out my own consultation last year and, in my view, it is probably the introduction of the pavement parking ban in the Transport Bill that will have most impact there. However, the Transport Committee has also agreed that it could have a controlled parking zone, depending on further resident consultation.
The rest of the area is to be a monitoring area or recommended for no further action meantime. So too with Chesser, Kingsknowe and Allan Park. Although some streets can get busy in these areas, it is not clear that further controls would bring benefit other than the kinds of location-specific yellow lines that protect crossing points or sightlines, for example.
So, turning back to Shandon and to the Hermands/Hutchison area. Both are recommended for reforms in phase 1, taking place this year. In my view, that means looking at more detailed options for a scheme and carrying out community engagement by the early autumn, all in time for going back to the Transport Committee before the end of the year with a ready-to-go scheme. That in turn will allow the legally-required traffic orders to be laid in early 2020.
Why further engagement? Although the independent report has produced clear evidence of the scale of pressure and the need to act, it does not go into detail as to exactly what might work in which areas. To take Shandon, for example, if there is to be a controlled parking zone, is it a new one or an extension of the existing ones? If the latter, which: S4 or S3? What else needs to happen to tackle poor parking in Ashley Drive and Ashley Gardens, for example? What needs to happen with better bike storage or car-sharing/pooling to help reduce demand? From hard-won experience, the specific package of proposals need to be well-evidenced and the product of community dialogue if they are not to unravel down the line.
Shandon is also much more ready than the Hermands/Hutchison area. My bulging email folders are testament to the desire among many Shandon residents to see parking better-managed. The arguments have been well-debated over the last decade and a half. Less than two years ago a group of residents gathered signatures from over 300 local people in a short period of time demanding action to reduce parking pressure. The demand for parking control in Shandon is definitely bottom-up from the community. However, there has not been that same dialogue so far in the Hermands/Hutchison. Just last month, the regular meeting of Hutchison-Chesser Community Council threw up a lot of complaints about parking stresses but not yet to the same extent as in Shandon. So the type and pace of engagement might need to be different in the Hermands/Hutchison. The last thing I’d want is for the entire process to be slowed up because the engagement is not tailored enough.
I also believe that it is important that elected representatives for the area fully engage with residents. I have had very constructive conversations with local constituency MSP Daniel Johnson and with fellow ward councillors David Key and Andrew Johnston: while we might have different shades of opinion as to what the answers are, I am pretty sure we all agree that simply going round in circles for years is no good for anyone; and that it is important that solutions which reflect residents’ aspirations are taken forward.
So I’ll go back to my starting point. The reason for parking pressures is that there are too many vehicles. The single most important step is to reduce the number of vehicles within and coming into the city. As well as easing parking strain it would reduce air pollution, improve road safety and open up streets for other uses. A quadruple win. At the same time, for the space that is allocated to vehicles, it can be prioritised for the benefit of residents rather than a free-for-all. That is also important to do. I really hope that we now see concerted action.
Gavin Corbett is one of three councillors for Fountainbridge-Craiglockhart.