Picardy Place, linking the city centre to Leith Walk, is one of the city’s most notorious junctions. Compared to most European and even other UK cities, Edinburgh still funnels an astonishing volume of traffic through its historic centre. Picardy Place is where an awful lot of it seems to go.
So, the redesign of the junction is a test of what kind of city Edinburgh wants to be. Locked into transport decisions from the 1960s? Or with a city centre where people come first?
As a newly-elected councillor for the City Centre, I and other Green councillors, have been raising serious concerns about the redesign of the junction for several weeks now.
Investing millions would be fantastic news if it would make our streets safer and healthier, but the design, at present, prioritises polluting vehicles and makes pavements narrower. I do not want to see our money spent to remove pavements and green space only to replace it with a three-lane highway in our city centre when our transport strategy is to put walking and cycling first.
What we build now will be with us for decades and this design would be a backwards step when we could be building a clean and pleasant cityscape instead.
I believe people have important contributions to make in the design process and I’ve consistently pushed for members of the public to be able to engage and shape this important city street. However, last week I learned the publicly-owned Paolozzi statues outside St Mary’s Cathedral were going to be moved to Hillside Crescent gardens without consultation. Now I understand the public consultation for the road and pavement redesign will begin on 23 September, which leaves no time to take on board any significant feedback before work physically begins on the ground in early October.
This process of making decisions about sensitive matters of public interest with scant or meaningless consultation is not the way I want our council to be operating. People have valuable ideas, contributions, and requirements that the council should listen to and act upon during an open and genuine consultation process.
So, over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be doing what I can to make sure that consultation and feedback will actually be taken into account and will shape how Picardy Place is to be in the future.