Councillor insists plans for top of Leith Walk a '˜balancing act'

IT's a debate that's gone around in circles probably more times than the traffic it will impact upon as plan and counter plan have been signposted, re-routed and diverted again and again.
Picardy Place roundabout at the top of Leith Walk. Picture: Ian GeorgesonPicardy Place roundabout at the top of Leith Walk. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Picardy Place roundabout at the top of Leith Walk. Picture: Ian Georgeson

And even when City of Edinburgh Council thought it might finally have found a to deal with the Picardy Place junction at the top of Leith, it once again found itself in a jam.

Some critics rounded on a 9-2 decision to push ahead with amended drawings put before councillors after a process that involved 1000 pieces of feedback, public debate and meetings.

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But now the city’s Transport Convenor, Lesley Macinnes, insists work needs to move on while still being informed by local opinion to ensure the area can fulfil its potential.

And she said she was “confident” in the proposals agreed upon, even if they don’t chime with all.

She said: “I am pleased that we have been able to take a step towards the redevelopment of Picardy Place, with the approval of a design which I am confident takes into account the desires and concerns of the many people who took the time to give us their feedback.

“We’ve worked hard, in consultation with residents, businesses and stakeholders, to hone plans which, I believe, achieve a much more 
pedestrian and cycling-friendly area while also ensuring this junction operates efficiently 
for our public transport network.

“By developing a public space in the island site, as well as enhancing the space outside the Cathedral, we’re giving new purpose to this location.

“We look forward to working with key stakeholders to develop more detailed designs for this area, creating a much more pleasant experience for people to spend time in or travel through.”

Work is now scheduled to begin in March, with some dubbing it a “mini-motorway”, including as it does, three-lanes for traffic around a so called “gyratory” junction.

Cycle campaign group Spokes are among the chief critics, the local priest has bemoaned its reduced disabled access at St Mary’s Cathedral. while Green councillor Chas Booth said the council needed to come up with a more ‘people friendly’ solution, accusing the council of being too wedded to the St James Quarter development nearby.

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But Macinnes insisted: “This is a key junction leading to the heart of the city, welcoming people to the Old and New Towns World Heritage Site and the wealth of attractions on offer.

“It’s essential that we get the balance right here for all road users, whether they’re on foot, cycling or using public transport, and now I’m glad we will be able to move forward to accomplish this, as part of the Central Edinburgh Transformation project.

“Rest assured, the conversation around this pivotal development will continue, as we further refine the design to best suit the needs of the public.”

That next test comes on Thursday, when how to finance the work goes before council.