December was a difficult time for parents and schools as changes to teaching were brought in because of the pandemic, and there was worry over a possible teachers’ strike. Councillors supported parents locally. In January we returned to a very different situation back in lockdown, with emergency service level returning and much normal Council business put on hold once again.
Climate change continues to be the priority, with the full Green group meeting with lead officers to input into the strategy for the council itself and a discussion on plans for implementing the 20-minute city with the Director Place. Steve Burgess is the Group lead on the Climate Crisis.
Claire Miller has been working on ways to reduce traffic congestion in the areas surrounding the tram construction works by focusing on the reduction of car journeys by helping people to make alternative choices about their mode of transport. She has called on Sustrans to work with the council and provide support for people to choose walking or cycling instead of travelling in a car and is pressing the tram programme and the council’s transport officers to work proactively on behavioural change.
In the city centre, Claire Miller and Gavin Corbett brought a motion to full council which agreed to review the future use of the old Royal High School building on Regent Road, which controversially had been to create a luxury hotel until planning consent was refused. Claire is very keen to find ‘meanwhile’ uses for the building until the building finds a permanent occupant, and next year it’ll be exciting to explore the opportunities for different ways to use the land and the building.
Moving into January, Claire Miller has been focusing on maintaining and strengthening designs of the temporary “spaces for people” infrastructure which has been implemented to make space for active travel during the pandemic. She has been looking at how the route to the Royal Infirmary can be improved with more segregation for cycling.
In the city centre ward, Claire Miller has been reviewing the latest designs for the George Street and New Town project. These streets desperately need to be re-designed to prioritise walking, wheeling and cycling, so this project is incredibly important. Claire is working with active travel organisations to identify ways that the designs can be strengthened, and what the impact will be for the surrounding streets of Queen Street and Princes Street. The public consultation will be coming soon – Claire will promote it on social media so that you can send in your views.
In the Housing Committee, Chas Booth has been pushing the council to mainstream work to bring empty homes back into use and urging stronger action to tackle land banking.
On the EIJB Melanie Main has been working with officers on the Climate Change Charter and measuring the carbon footprint of NHS Lothian services, and the implementation of the Carers Strategy.
Some ward highlights
In Leith, Chas Booth has been working to tackle noise and air pollution from ships in Leith port.
Mary Campbell has been working to ensure community involvement in the future of Portobello Town Hall, including setting up a public meeting which led to the creation of Portobello Central.
In Fountainbridge-Craiglockhart Gavin Corbett organised a New Year community clean-up of the Caledonian Railway Path just before Lockdown 2 started.