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Edinburgh Spaces for People consultation “sinking to new levels”

Edinburgh City Council has been accused of using ‘leading questions’ in its latest Spaces for People consultation – with critics accusing the local authority of ‘sinking to a new level’.

On Monday, the council launched a public consultation on the temporary Spaces for People measures in place on Lanark Road, Longstone Road and Inglis Green Road, which include protected cycle lanes on both sides of the roads.

The council first brought the measures in during the early stages of the pandemic, to ease the ‘congestion and conflict’ between different users of the paths along the Union Canal and Water of Leith.

The council has also pointed to research carried out by Edinburgh Bike Life, which found one of the main barriers to people cycling is feeling safe on the roads.

Getting more people out of cars and walking and cycling is a major priority for council bosses, who are trying to combat air pollution in the city, as well as tackling climate change and obesity.

However, opponents of the new cycle lanes say the consultation – which is only taking place 18 months after the measures were installed – includes a ‘Hobson’s choice’.

A spokesperson for anti-Spaces for People pressure group, South West Edinburgh in Motion (SWEM), said: “This latest survey has sunk to a new level by presenting a Hobson’s Choice at Question 5, where respondents are forced to agree with one of the options presented by the council (remove parking entirely, or relocate it) or be unable to submit their responses to any other question.

“The council has already ignored overwhelming public objection to this scheme in the last consultation which had 17,600 responses.

“But to attempt to manipulate public support in this way to create a result along the lines of ‘85% of people support this option’ is unacceptable.

“A survey hosted on the council’s consultation hub where residents cannot communicate their opinion without agreeing with the council creates further public distrust in council consultations.

“In November 2020, Audit Scotland reported that CEC needed to do more around community engagement, empowerment and reducing inequality. This survey appears to move even further away from achieving that.”

SWEM has also accused the council of including leading questions in the survey.

Before question four of the consultation, which provides three options for cycle lanes outside Cranley Nursery (retain the existing layout, remove the parking or remove the cycle lanes), the council states: “These options have been discussed with community councillors in the surrounding area and their comments have helped to inform the proposals.

“At the workshop with community councillors, there was no support for removing the cycle lanes at this location, with the preference being for retention.”

The spokesperson for SWEM said: “Leading statements are very bad practice in any survey.

“This repeats the error of the leading statements being used in the main public consultation in an apparent attempt to elicit a positive response – these statements then had to be removed.”

The pressure group has now submitted a formal complaint to Edinburgh City Council, and called for the survey to be paused while their complaint is handled.

Conservative councillors from the south-west, councillors Graeme Bruce, Phil Doggart, Andrew Johnston, Jason Rust and Susan Webber, have backed SWEM’s call for the consultation to be halted.

Colinton and Fairmilehead councillor Jason Rust said, “It’s clear that residents have significant and wide ranging concerns about the council’s survey approach and opposition councillors had no advance sight of this survey.

“There is a strong feeling that it is not addressing the key points residents have been raising for months and the options are so limited it is reducing faith in the process.

“The council needs to immediately pause and revisit its approach.”

SWEM has also complained about the removal of speed camera markings on the road, as although the speed cameras are currently dormant, the group has raised concerns that the removal of the road markings make their reinstatement impossible.

The SWEM spokesperson added: “The scheme design has rendered them inoperable because the marker lines were removed to accommodate the new road design, therefore they cannot be reactivated in the proposed road designs.

“A recent police mobile unit spot-check (for a few hours) identified an individual travelling at 68mph in the ‘slalom layout’, this layout is even more dangerous than the previous layout for speeds like this.”

In response to SWEM’s complaints, a council spokesperson said: “As was widely reported at the time, it was agreed by full council in June to engage with the community on the retention of the Lanark Road scheme, including on the matter of parking provision where parking spaces sat outside protected cycle lanes.

“This approved motion also instructed officers to engage with community councils, and the summary merely described details of the feedback received from all those that attended workshop sessions.

“The survey is aimed at helping us to mitigate potential conflict and any safety concerns and will inform proposals for the scheme’s future, with a decision to be made by committee in October. We thank all those who have contributed so far.

“These measures are about protecting the safety of those using this road, particularly more vulnerable road users, and as such we would by no means remove speed cameras where required.

“The reactivation of speed cameras is still entirely possible should collisions increase and speeds rise, and we will continue to monitor the situation in liaison with the East Safety Camera Unit.

“Having said that, we’re confident that the measures in place and reduced speed limit will ensure calmer, safer speeds on this road.”

 

Article originally appeared on Edinburgh Live

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