And we’re off… nearly

photo (2)You’ll have probably seen these yellow signs appearing all along Constitution Street in recent days. They signal that the long overdue repair work is about to commence. Alan Dean, the Leith Programme coordinator, sent out an email recently stating that work will start a week today:

“We are pleased to advise you that work will commence on site in Constitution Street on 29th April 2013. The works will comprise the resurfacing of the existing footways and carriageway and environmental enhancements identified during consultation. These enhancements will include the introduction of new tree pits and the reinstatement of old ones, pavement widening, and cycle storage provision at specific locations in the street.

“The initial contract period will be 8 weeks and the Contractor for the works is Lafarge Tarmac Limited. Location plans and a project programme can be found on our webpages. ‘Tarmac’ will carry out work to sections 11 (Foot of the Walk to Coatfield Lane) and 13 (Old Dock Gates to Bernard Street) and this part of the programme is scheduled to end around mid-June. Section 12 which is the middle section between Coatfield Lane and Bernard Street, will follow this. All being well, should archaeological issues not impact during the work, the aim is for the work on Constitution Street to be complete by mid-August.”

“Update information will be put onto our webpages regularly along with our stakeholder emails. We will of course be actively engaging with traders and residents in Constitution Street as much as possible before and during work on site. While recognising that some disruption will be inevitable giving the type of work involved in the programme, it is the intention to try to minimise this as much as possible and it is our hope that any short term disruption is made up for by the improved environment that will be created for residents, businesses and visitors to the street.”

How fast do you need to go?

We came on this interesting post on 20MPH zones and by way of a tweet the other day. It’s the kind of fascinating stuff that you get if you’re willing to get on a random bus with a GPS tracker in order to work out how fast they go on average over a given distance. Impressive! Anyway, do read it because what you’ll find is interesting information about how or publicly owned bus service – Lothian Regional Transport – opposes 20MPH zones but, it seems, for absolutely no good reason. As for the comment that someone seriously considered changing Leith Walk to Leith Drive, I’m going to keep everuthing crossed that that was just a bad joke.

There’s also some really interesting info about Twenty’s Plenty here.

Seriously, wouldn’t it be great if when the improvements are made to Leith Walk and Constitution Street, the great and the good realised that Twenty really is Plenty?

Carry on regardless? We don’t think so…

A great post on Greener Leith about the Leith Improvement Programme. It seems that Edinburgh City Council are following in the footsteps of Forth Ports when it comes to how they respond to consultation feedback – carry on regardless seems to be the attitude. It’s not good enough. And for that reason our favourite paragraph of the Greener Leith post is the following:

“In the interim, if you would like to see the council take the ideas contained in the Vision for Leith Walk top 20 ideas list more seriously, please do write to both your local councillors and indeed the convenor of the finance and resource committeeCllr Alasdair Rankin, to let him know which ideas you would like to see supported. Local councillors which sit on this committee include Cllr Angela Blacklock and Cllr Adam McVey.

LET’S DO IT. NO, REALLY, DON’T JUST THINK ABOUT IT – SEND SOME EMAILS!

And if you’re looking for some assistance to get you started, check out the Twitter responses at the bottom of the post. People are not happy and they’re absolutely right not to be. The trams have been a fiasco and that gives even more reason to ensure that the end of the process is much, much better than the beginning.

A welcome response but questions remain…

So we’ve had a response from Edinburgh City Council to the emails that we’ve sent. First thing’s first – sincere thanks to everyone who took the time to send one. The fact that we’ve got a response goes to show that people are listening. Second thing’s second, thanks to our three local ward councillors – Gordon Munro, Adam McVey and Chas Booth for lending their support. It really is appreciated.

And now to the response:

Let’s start with the positive: we know that utility work and road resurfacing is now likely to start ahead of schedule, as the resurfacing work in Henderson Street is set to finish sooner than expected in mid-August. Good news. We also know that once the resurfacing is done, noise and vibration should be subtantially reduced. Good news. It’s also great that signs are going to be erected asking HGVs not to use Constitution Street – please do let us know if you spot these when these appear.

But there are some questions:

  • the letter states that “repair work has been carried out within the last few days to improve the worst areas of defective road surface”. Has anyone seen this? I’ve looked but can’t seem to find it.
  • the letter states that there are two other diversion routes available for buses but it was decided that they were “less suitable” than Constitution Street. Given the level of disruption and distress caused to local residents in recent months, as has been made clear on the blog and on Twitter and at the recent meeting of the Leith Community Council meeting, I wonder how this can be so? And whether anyone, at any time, has got in touch with locals to discuss? It would seem that in the future this would be wise particularly when dealing with a street that is already in significant disrepair.
  • the letter says that the new road surface will significantly help with noise and vibration, but how will we they know whether noise and vibration have been reduced if they don’t come out and see for themselves what it’s like at the moment and therefore ensure that the work which is to be carried out really addresses the problems?
  • the suggestion of “speed surveys” is welcome, but when will these be put in place? It would be useful to know so we have some idea of a timescale for the results.

On the whole, the response is a helpful one but there are questions. Maybe you have others? I’d be interested to know so that we can come up with a next step including a response to the letter itself.

Too much, too fast

At 3.55am on Sunday morning I was woken with a start. My bed shook, the windows rattled, the chest of drawers squeaked against the skirting board. What had actually wakened me though was the sound of a photoframe edging ever closer to crashing on to the floorboards. I can’t even tell you what the sound was, I just suddenly knew what was about to happen so I got up, stumbled sleepily over to the table it sits on and laid the frame – right on the edge as I’d thought – flat. Then I slumped back into bed. For the next hour though, I struggled to get back to sleep as one after another heavy trucks thundered up the street outside my window.
If you live on Constitution Street then you’ll know that for the last couple of months the volume of traffic has been signficantly heavier than usual. The number 22 and number 35 buses are being routed along the street at the moment and the volume of very heavy HGVs using the street has, if the shaking in my flat is anything to go by, increased too. The experience of being wakened by traffic thundering up or down the street – either by the noise of the trucks or the shaking in the buildings that it causes – has become a depressingly familiar experience for many residents. When combined with the seriously eroded road surface, it’s causing real difficulties and not a little distress to people who live here.
So what can we do?
Already, a few residents have attended the community council meeting to raise their concerns, they have written to Edinburgh City Council and to some of the elected representatives who work for the area. MSP Malcolm Chisolm has been down to the street to see what’s going on for himself and is in the process of making his own enquiries. It’s good stuff. And we need more of it.
The issue is simple: the road surface of Constitution Street was laid as a temporary fix after the tram work utility access. It is not suitable for heavy use by buses or concentrated use by HGVs. The road surface is due to be replaced after yet more utility work is done. Estimates suggest that this will happen in the autumn.
But what about now? Residents are experiencing significant noise disruption and many of the buildings that we live in are shaking with the impact of the traffic. There are concerns about irreparable structural damage and pollution damage to historic, listed buildings. WE NEED TO LET IT BE KNOWN THAT THE VOLUME OF TRAFFIC ON CONSTITUTION STREET NEEDS TO BE REDUCED AS A MATTER OF URGENCY.
And even once the road surface is replaced, we don’t want things to go back to how they are now. We need to look at options to reduce the volume of traffic and also to reduce the speed of the traffic that is using the street. Driving across Edinburgh on Sunday I saw a blue sign in Comely Bank stating the road was not suitable for traffic, I saw another at Cannonmills stating that it is a “traffic calmed” area. If it can happen in these areas, why not here in Leith? At the junction of Constitution Street and Queen Charlotte Street, there is a nursery to one side and two primary schools to the other – it is not a junction that HGVs should be allowed to thunder through. Constitution Street is a great street with a vibrant history and an exciting future – it should not be seen as merely a route of traffic with that taking precedence over everyone and everything else.
We are in the process of putting our heads together to come up with practical strategies to get our voices heard on this issue – keep your eyes peeled on this blog, on our facebook page and on our tweets (@Constitution_St). And if you have ideas or you’d like to be involved please get in touch.