SNP council leader urges ministers to cut ‘archaic’ transport red tape or risk net zero targets
An SNP council leader has warned the Scottish Government that cities will fail to meet ambitious net zero targets unless the ‘endless’ and ‘archaic’ process of redesigning streets by removing vehicular traffic is overhauled .
The appeal comes after a key cycle route in Edinburgh was blocked for four and a half years due to the ongoing process overseen by the SNP Government and Transport Scotland.
Edinburgh and Glasgow have pledged to become net zero cities in just nine years – but alarm bells have been sounded over the administrative processes that need to be overcome in order to put more emphasis on cycling and walking and move away trips by car.
The Scottish Government’s 20-year vision to shake up transport infrastructure released on Thursday includes a key recommendation for a “high quality and safe national active travel network connecting Scottish communities”.
A separate recommendation from officials calls for the “development of active motorways on high demand corridors in major urban areas of Scotland”, adding that priority will initially be given to larger cities such as Edinburgh.
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The vision states that “comprehensive networks of active highways would connect outlying neighborhoods to city centers” and “allow people to easily access active highways from their homes, schools and workplaces.”
Adam McVey, SNP leader of Edinburgh City Council, told MSPs that traffic control orders must be streamlined by cutting red tape if the capital is to have any chance of meeting its net zero commitment in 2030.
McVey said the ‘elephant in the room’ was the need to encourage more people to cycle and walk – warning that a switch from petrol cars to electric vehicles will not be enough to cut emissions at home. scale required.
He said: ‘In order to redesign the streets, councils have to go through a traffic control order process if there is opposition, which let’s be honest sometimes there is.
“This process is long and archaic, and it needs to change.”
But Scottish government officials are said to have “highlighted opportunities” for the council to speed up its processes.
The council leader highlighted plans for the east-west cycle route in the capital, which he said will ‘bring huge benefits to cycling and huge improvements to the walking environment’.
He added: ‘It was approved before I became head of council over four and a half years ago but we are only now getting to the point where shovels are going into the ground to build it, due to traffic very long. regulatory order process.
“Councils need to be able to change the public domain more easily.
“Of course, we need to consult and engage with businesses and communities, but we need to be able to change the landscape and infrastructure of our cities faster and more effectively if we are to see the necessary declines in associated carbon emissions. to the transports we have.”
McVey insisted that a model based on simply assuming that all petrol and diesel cars will be replaced by electric vehicles “will not wash away”.
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He said: “Despite the benefits of electric vehicles, cities like Edinburgh will not be able to reach net zero by 2030 with a model that simply shifts from a crowded city of private petrol-powered cars to a crowded city private cars that are electric.
“We need to fundamentally change the makeup, and the traffic regulation ordinance process needs to allow councils to work faster and make changes more cheaply by removing unnecessary bureaucracy and allowing us to move the change for the benefit of our communities.”
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to helping local councils, including our towns, meet their climate change targets. As part of this, we have set up a Traffic Control Ordinances Review Group made up of interested parties, and Edinburgh City Council is represented on this group.
“Local authorities now have the ability to put in place experimental traffic patterns with a minimum of seven days’ notice, while allowing the public an enhanced consultation period of at least six months while the project is in the field.
“Transport Scotland has previously highlighted opportunities for Edinburgh City Council officials on how they could streamline their processes around traffic control orders and redetermination orders.”