AS I SEE IT: TERRY MURDEN
Edinburgh’s anti-motorist council is to begin introducing its new car parking action plan, including Sunday restrictions. The prospect of living in a fresh and clean city is supposed to fill our hearts with joy. Instead, a collective groan is echoing around what will soon be a lot of empty, lifeless streets.
Within minutes of posting something on this on Facebook, there was a queue of responses from those expressing anger and frustration at the council, describing it variously as being “without a clue” and slowly killing off the city.
In one of the latest missives from city chambers, councillor Lesley Macinnes, the transport and environment convener, says: “In Edinburgh we are working toward a greener, healthier more sustainable transport future…”
The council is also moving the city toward complete shutdown, as many businesses already starved of trade will see car-borne shoppers – still reluctant to use public transport because of Covid-19 – go elsewhere.
Sunday controls will come into force in the spring just in time for the opening of the St James Quarter which will need all the help it can get to avoid becoming a £1 billion white elephant.
What all cities need is limited FREE car parking to encourage shoppers and traders. A three or four hour free slot in the middle of the day (10am-2pm) would bring shoppers in and would avoid the likelihood of being mis-used by commuters.
It is time to stop this madness and the obsession with walking and cycling. They do little for the retail sector. They are leisure and commuting activities. Try taking a coffee table home under your arm or on your bike. It’s why the St James Quarter’s only hope is that it has 850 free car parking spaces in the basement. Without shoppers in cars, it will be a dud.
The parking clampdown extends beyond Edinburgh to all cities and beyond retail to general trades. Glasgow clearly shares Edinburgh’s death wish by halving the number of available spaces. As for tradespeople, the man who re-fitted my bathroom told me many are reluctant to take on jobs in Edinburgh city centre because of the draconian parking rules that force them to walk the streets carrying radiators, window frames and heavy tools.
A group of nine trade organisations, including the Chambers of Commerce in Edinburgh and Glasgow, have written to Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and COSLA on the subject. “The cost of parking in our towns and cities is viewed by a number of business organisations as a major barrier to trade…” they wrote.
The council is right to try and reduce congestion and clean the air, but many cities do this with inner ring roads and park and ride facilities. A historic city cannot have an inner ring road, which means motorists have no choice other than to drive through it.
If we want more people to take the bus then there is no excuse for not building more park and ride facilities. Edinburgh’s tram is a move in the right direction but it doesn’t serve anyone in the south of the city. Comparisons, therefore, with cities like Amsterdam, which has a proper tram network, are misplaced.
Of course we want our cities to have good air quality, but we are already moving towards that with the transition to electric vehicles.
In the meantime, deterring people from entering Edinburgh at a time when businesses are desperate to attract them is counter-intuitive. If cities are deprived of the oxygen of trade they will die.