Phase 1 Approved!

February 5, 2021

At the city council’s Transport and Environment Committee meeting on 28 January, next steps of phase 1 of the review of parking was approved (pdf). The report is over 200 pages and has implications for Shandon, Slateford and Hutchison, as well as a small corner off Colinton Road so Gavin Corbett explains what it means.

The background to the parking review will be familiar to many people. As traffic volumes have grown in Edinburgh so too have parking pressures. Over a period of decades the city has expanded parking regulation which seeks to prioritise available space for residents, starting with the city centre and working out. However, this creates boundary issues for areas, like Shandon, which are unregulated but immediately next to regulated areas. Added to that, the latest Transport Act has introduced a ban on pavement parking. Once this is implemented it will rightly make parking safer but will also reduce space. So regulating parking is about getting ahead of, rather than simply reacting to that change.

In 2018-19 the council commissioned the biggest-ever assessment of parking pressures across the whole city. This produced parking “heatmaps” which ranked areas in terms of pressure. So, of over 100 areas, Shandon ranked 3rd highest, Slateford/Hutchison 22nd and so on. This was then used to draw up a programme of action for years ahead in 4 phases. All of the areas above are in phase one along with Abbeyhill, Gorgie, Leith and Leith Walk areas.

The draft proposals were subject to informal consultation towards the end of 2019, comprising drop-ins at local venues, surveys, and opportunities to leave detailed comments on online maps. There were hundreds of replies and having attended a couple of the drop-ins myself I can attest to the sheer volume of insightful comments and suggestions.

In the normal run of things a report would have gone to committee a year ago and, other things being equal, we would be looking at actual implementation right now. But these are not normal times. So, the report on next steps only went to committee on Thursday past (28 January 2021). The committee agreed that the proposals for phase 1 (the areas above) should go to formal consultation through the publishing of Traffic Orders for comment. These are expected to be published by early April for feedback. Changes would then be analysed and a revised scheme put to Transport Committee and implemented from the first half of 2022, if approved.

The delay is frustrating but, overall, I welcome next steps being taken. The committee agreed that the most compelling the case is for Shandon and that was supported unanimously by all 5 political groups on the Council. So I will deal with Shandon first and in most detail. The case is more mixed for Colinton Road and for Slateford / Hutchison so I will come back to them further below.

Shandon then. Over, the last 20 years Shandon has seen various proposals to deal with parking pressures, with no conclusion. The current free-for-all has continued to get worse. In all the areas consulted in phase 1 Shandon had the highest response (300 responses) with more than two-thirds (69%) of them agreeing that parking is a problem in the area. I totally get that there are many varying views in the area on whether to address the issue and how. So waiting for the perfect solution that achieves total consensus is to wait forever. But the worst of all outcomes is to continue to do nothing. Whatever finally emerges from the mix I will continue to seek to improve it. However, a less-than perfect solution is better than the deteriorating status quo.

So what is on the table? The report to committee outlines the main features but I have asked officers to see detailed street by street plans, as detail matters. A new parking zone S5 will be created between Slateford Road and Polwarth Terrace, including all the streets around Harrison Park; both colony areas, the Shandon triangle and the area behind the school. It will be predominantly resident permit parking 8.30am-5.30pm, although the timings are to be kept under review to recognise evening pressure, and there will also be some shared use bays to allow business and visitor use on a permit or pay and display basis. Compared to the first parking zones introduced back in the 1970s there will be a greater emphasis on e-permits and online booking and less on physical permits and clunky meter machines (although there will still be some).

From the feedback sessions several changes have been included:

  • There has been a reduction in the number of double yellow areas in favour of more bays (for example in Shandon Street) but I’ll check the full detail when I see the plans
  • West Bryson Road and most of Harrison Road will now be taken from S4 and put into the new S5. In net terms that will add about 70-80 spaces. That is welcome but I have also suggested looking at doing the same for the part of S3 – ie the bottom end of Spylaw Road.
  • The “square” in Shaftesbury Park will seek to maximise space as with current use. In time I genuinely hope that overall car-parking demand is reduced such that areas like the square can be used more imaginatively than as a car-park but that might be on a slightly longer horizon.
  • The new on street secure bike stores and communal bin locations will be integrated into the new bays, to avoid chopping and changing.

From my initial read there are a few things which are still in development: for example, the exact configuration of bays and double yellows on the “Ashleys” and Cowan Road; and on the two groups of colony streets; on the layout at the top end of Ogilvie Terrace and on the mix of permit only versus shared bays. A review of historic disabled bays to make sure they match need will be useful. In general, I’ll be seeking to make sure that there is a good balance between making sure parking is safer and that there is a match between demand for space and availability. The evidence from existing controlled areas is that the number of permits does reduce the number of cars seeking space and even in those parking areas which raised opposition on introduction there is very little appetite to go back now.

Some of these issues also apply to the area known as “B8” in the plans – ie Craiglockhart Terrace (already partly-controlled), Meggetland Terrace and a small bit of Colinton Road. This will become a rather small new zone although I have suggested looking into whether it and the connecting bit of S3 on Polwarth Terrace might become part of the new S5. I have also asked that the redundant bit of footway at the upper end of Craiglockhart Terrace is removed and that consideration is given to Meggetland Terrace being one way.

Finally, to Hutchison and Slateford. This is called “Gorgie” in the report and it is a real mixed bag. Some of the area around the “Wardlaws” over to Slateford Gait is definitely Gorgie and where it is defined by older tenements seems to me to be under parking pressure. But it isn’t my ward so I’ll not dwell on it.

West of Slateford Green to Chesser Avenue is more accurately called Hutchison/Moat and is in my patch. Reaction to parking regulation here was cooler than other areas, reflecting the fact that it has not yet experienced quite the level of pressure as other areas. I think it is likely to face higher pressure if it becomes the new frontier for parking free-for-all. So I think it is right for the council to press ahead with laying a traffic order but to pause on the timing of implementation in this one specific area. If the displaced pressure happens, as I think it will, then the arrangements are in place to provide respite quickly. If not, then it remains available to use if and when needed.

Over the other side of Slateford Road – in the Hermands and Appin Terrace, swifter action may be needed, given the high density of flats there. So, this is what I mean when I say that the picture in Slateford / Hutchison is more mixed. By decoupling the decision to make a traffic order from a variable timescale of implementation, the council can respond in a more nuanced way to pressure and resident demand where and when it arises.

As we look ahead to 2030 the transport transformation is only just beginning. The end of the decade will see the fossil fuel age come to an end as petrol and diesel cars are no longer sold. But it won’t just be a matter of swopping all the current cars for electric ones. For the sake of health, more balanced neighbourhoods, road safety and congestion, the future will shift towards high quality public transport, walking, wheeling and cycling and to car pooling and sharing. All of this will help reduce parking as a touchstone issue: in the meantime, I look forward to safer arrangements that put residents first.

Gavin Corbett is Green councillor for Fountainbridge-Craiglockhart