Bike sheds

As Green spokesperson for both transport and planning it falls on me to straddle an issue that has been raised by cycling pressure group, Spokes and by individual householders.

The issue is simple. People want to be able to cycle to and from work and so help meet one of the Council’s key transport aims. Where access to back gardens is otherwise constrained (for example, in mid terrace homes) some have sought to have modest bike sheds in their front gardens. They have been told they cannot do so by planning officials.

Quite rightly, Edinburgh has amenity policy, particularly in conservation area. But we are not talking about shed carbuncles here. We are talking modest-sized, suitably designed and well-located shelters for one or two bikes, certainly far less intrusive than the latest “urban tractors” from Japan which are allowed to park year-round in the heart of even our most historic areas.

This week I sought to bring this issue to Transport and Environment Committee because it has transport implications and exposes a tension between transport and planning policy. This tension does not reflect well on the Council so I sought an opportunity for us to come to a rounded view on it.

Planning officials have been giving a clear message to councillors, to cycling organisations and to members of the public that the issue could be addressed in a recent revision and consolidation of planning guidance. This message now appears to have been wrong, which is highly regrettable but was, again, why I believed Transport Committee should take a lead on it.

However, when I brought the issue to Transport Committee, the intial feedback was that the issue would be referred to Planning Committee. This felt to me like a game of snakes and ladders where, having ascended a modest ladder I immediately faced a large snake and was pushed all the way back to square one. So, at this stage I withdrew the motion and will seek to progress it further with interested councillors and officials.

This is not the biggest issue facing Edinburgh nor does it affect that many people in the city. But it is sortable. So we should sort it.