Is this what Constitution Street really needs? And will the Council listen?

In response to our recent Tweet we were delighted to receive the text of a letter sent by one Constitution Street resident as part of the council’s online consultation on the Leith Improvement programme. I’ve posted it below because I think you’ll agree it gets to the heart of what needs to be done by the Council in order to both ensure that the planned improvements really do impact positively on the the street and also that the concerns of residents are acted upon. (The final paragraph is crucially important.)
 
As far as we’re aware, the Council have not as yet responded to the questions raised, perhaps they will when given this second opportunity?
 
As a home-owning resident of Constitution Street, near the junction of Queen Charlotte St, on the eastern side of the street, opposite the St Mary’s Star of the Sea church, my primary concern is for a satisfactory reinstatement of the road surface and the pavements alongside it.
 
Since being dug up, filled in, dug up and filled in again repeatedly (for utilities work) during the period when the council still intended to run the tram down here, the street’s surface has been a widely acknowledged disgrace. Also, at times during this period, increased use of the street by HGVs and buses (when neighbouring streets used by certain buses were closed and the buses were rerouted down Constitution Street) the impact on residential properties along the street was frankly hellish. There were times when our house rumbled and shook more or less constantly day and night. 
 
Matters have improved since a big yellow sign was put up on Bernard Street stating that Constitution St was “unsuitable for HGVs”, and since further signs were put up restricting speed to 20mph – and I would sincerely urge the powers that be to retain the 20mph restriction once the reinstatement works are completed. If possible, making the speed restriction signage clearer and then enforcing it would be a big help locally as it is frequently ignored, particularly by the HGVs that still use the street and by buses. Incidentally, the speed-sensor unit fixed to a lamp-post directly opposite the Port of Leith Housing Association building has ceased to work.
 
I’d be very happy for a council official to visit our property and witness for themselves the physical disruption and noise nuisance in a building abutting this narrow section of Constitution Street. We have been here for nearly six years, we now have two small children aged 5 and 3, and there are many other families with young children in and around this area for whom the neglect and mismanagement of Constitution Street has been and remains a more or less constant thorn in our side. 
 
Finally, re the reinstatement works, I would urge the council to insist that the contractors look below the surface of the street, carrying out a proper structural survey and addressing any problems that may lie beneath the surface. I say this because on more than one occasion, in the aftermath of the successive waves of utility work carried out some three to four years ago, workmen had to return to fix holes that opened up in the street, discovering that the previous workmen had failed to properly fill in the holes they’d dug – and there were found to be “voids” left beneath the surface of the street, which exacerbated the percussive effects of traffic on the road. It would be a serious oversight – with likely unnecessary future cost implications – if the contractors (McNicholas Construction?) failed to deal properly with the underpinning of the street and simply addressed the cosmetic aspect of the street’s surface.
 
Andy Mackenzie, Constitution Street resident

Shake, rattle and…

So, we’re all cock a hoop with the improvement plan, aren’t we? Yes, the pavement outside my flat has been left cracked and broken (as has a tile at the entrance to my stair) by the recent work but surely when the new pavements are laid and the road surface replaced we’re all going to see – and feel – a huge and long-overdue improvement in how things have been over recent years since… no, I’m not going into it again.

But here’s a thing – how do we KNOW that the new work is going to be an improvement? Who is going to monitor that the problems many of us have complained to the council about in recent months and years (the fact that our homes rumble and shake as heavy vehicles and buses pass) are addressed by the work that is done?

According to some, the work on Constitution Street will be done by the time the Fringe begins in the summer so really we need to get thinking about this now. I know I should probably just trust that the council will do right by us but let’s face it that’s not exactly what’s happened up until now. For most of us, our homes are our biggest assets, they’re what we spend most of our monthly income on, they’re where we most want to feel safe and secure – shouldn’t we do our best to make sure that the works the council undertakes really ARE improvements? 

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.

So, what should we do? TAKE ACTION

There’s been quite a bit of chat here and on Twitter and Facebook about the last post which addressed the problems being caused by the high volume and speed of heavy traffic on Constitution Street. Thanks for getting in touch – it’s really helpful and it’s exactly what this blog is for. We said we’d come up with some practical ideas about how to move forward and we have. So here they are:

1. Contact Marshall Poulton, Head of Traffic at Edinburgh City Council (marshall.poulton@edinburgh.gov.uk)

2. Contact ward councillors, Gordon Munro, Chas Booth and Adam McVey (gordon.munro@edinburgh.gov.uk, chas.booth@edinburgh.gov.uk, adam.mcvey@edinburgh.gov.uk)

3. Start a petition – both online and on paper

Below you’ll see a template for an email that can be sent to Mr Poulton. Please use it. Copy and paste until your heart is content. But also, feel free to add your own details or to write your own version. Perhaps you have kids and you’re worried for their safety? Perhaps you cycle and the traffic is causing you problems? It’s really important that we give council officials a real sense of the distress that the current situation is causing. Also, please spread the word. Not everyone is online, not everyone likes email (all of the people mentioned above can be reached at The City of Edinburgh Council, High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1YJ). The main thing is that now that we know who to contact, we do contact them. The state of the street and the way that it’s being used is ridiculous – so let’s get help to do something about it. 

Finally, we are in the process of setting up a petition, but if anyone would fancy helping – now’s your chance…

Cheers.

READ ME. COPY ME. PASTE ME. SEND ME.

For the last few months the volume of traffic on Constitution Street – both buses and HGVs – has been significantly heavier than is usual. This increase in volume combined with the extremely poor road surface, which was laid as a temporary fix after the tram work utility access, means that residents are experiencing significant noise disruption and many of the buildings that we live in are shaking with the impact of the heavy traffic. There are growing concerns about irreparable structural damage and pollution damage to the street’s many historic, listed buildings. 

Please can you advise what might be done to address this situation?

– As many as 40 buses every hour are passing up and down Constitution Street during the day. Can these buses be re-routed as a matter of urgency?

– The advised route for HGVs is along Great Junction Street, North Junction Street and Commercial Street. Why are so many of them are choosing not to use that route? And how they might be encouraged to do so? 

– we don’t know what speed traffic is travelling at, but if the noise and rumbling in our buildings is anything to go by, the speed is inappropriate for a street that is both heavily populated and architecturally significant. Constitution Street has a nursery on one side and two primary schools on the other – shouldn’t we be a ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ area?

Constitution Street is one of the most historic streets in Edinburgh (only two buildings on the street are not Listed status) so to use it as merely a route for traffic with that taking precedence over everyone and everything else seems  entirely unacceptable – please help us to improve this situation.

Yours,