5.1 This section of the report presents the detailed objections that the ‘Keep Blenheim Place Open Group’ has to the access alterations as proposed under TRO/09/60A for the right turn from London Road into Blenheim Place. The grounds for objection will be presented in terms of:- • Compromised accessibility • Unacceptability of alternative routes • Marginalisation and isolation of the Church • Isolation of the community at large • Effect on business • Security • Increase in carbon emissions and pollution • Flawed design brief
5.2 Historically and currently the primary route into the Terraces is by the right turn from London Road into Blenheim Place. This route brings traffic from the city centre, from the west and from the north. The only other access point is by Carlton Terrace Brae, which brings traffic from the east and south. This is a very compromised route (which is further discussed in 5.5) and regarded as a third access point. The secondary route was by Regent Terrace, which is now closed due to enhanced security for the American Consulate after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (see 3.11).
5.3 Current proposals intend restricting eastbound access to Blenheim Place. Blenheim Place-leading into Royal Terrace – is comparatively straight and has a gentle sloping approach to the Terraces. It is a wide street and has pavement on both sides which is well lit and has buildings (mainly residential) on one side. It leads directly onto the Terraces, passing the Church and the eastern entrance onto Calton Hill, and is easy to find from London Road/Leith Walk and is easy to navigate. It is both appropriate and adequate as the primary access route to the Terraces.
5.4 By contrast, the route proposed as the main entrance to the Terraces is Carlton Terrace Brae. It is a narrow, windy road which is steep and has a sloping camber. There is only pavement on one side, which is onto open gardens and completely blocked from view for most of its length, while the other side of the street abuts a large wall which forms the boundary to Regent Gardens. It is dark and quiet. Entrance to the Brae is from the difficult junction at Abbeymount (see 5.5). The Brae then joins Carlton Terrace by way of a T-junction, with restricted visibility to the left on entry.
5.5 Abbeymount junction is the entrance point to Carlton Terrace Brae. It is a five road junction with traffic signals. It is compromised from every approach. Travelling north/south traffic meets on the brow of a hill, which is very difficult in wet conditions and particularly in winter when car lights dazzle. The low winter sunlight adds to the hazards at this junction when approaching from the north side of the city. Drivers wishing to access the Brae from the north have to perform a U-turn against two sets of oncoming traffic. Travelling north/east/west there is a double option to turning left/right with no clear method of indicating proposed manoeuvre. There are currently no filters or dedicated road markings. However it is difficult to see how either would seriously enhance safety, particularly as the Highway Code contains no designated signage to deal with such a junction.
5.6 Under the proposals the only other access will be a left turn from London Road into Blenheim Place. This would be approached from the east. This is the very traffic which already accesses the Terraces from Carlton Terrace Brae. Therefore, realistically virtually ALL traffic to the Terraces will be using the highly compromised (and dangerous) Abbeymount Junction.
5.7 With over 270 residential properties there is inevitably a reasonable level of ongoing traffic movement. This encompasses not only domestic day to day journeys, but all the service and delivery traffic associated with the upkeep of families and properties. We understand in fact that any development with over 200 dwellings should have more than one access, to insure against the risk of one access being closed for any reason. This was forcefully highlighted for residents of the terraces over New Year 2010 when Carlton Terrace Brae was closed by the police for three days because of ice and snow. See Appendix C. Although this scenario may not be repeated in the near future, it was a timely reminder that any number of factors could close the road. For example, it was also closed during the Pope’s visit to Edinburgh in 2010. The proposals put forward provide no viable alternative should it be required.
5.8 The hotels and businesses in the Terraces obviously add to the level of traffic. The seven hotels in Royal Terrace, with over 200 bedrooms between them, generate a significant amount of delivery and service vehicles and rely upon access by heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and coaches. These large vehicles will be forced to use Carlton Terrace Brae, which is difficult because of the U turn. If for any reason the Brae is closed, larger vehicles cannot make the left turn in at Blenheim Place, so effectively there would be NO access to the Terraces for them. This is an unacceptable situation for such businesses.
5.9 Daily life of the church is seriously affected by the proposed restricted access. Weddings and funerals often involve large vehicles, and traffic which is unfamiliar with the Terraces. The access routes planned are difficult to find and to navigate. This also impacts long term on community life of the church, particularly the groups involving children, as parents find the church inaccessible.
Unacceptability of alternative routes
5.10 Banning the right turn from London Road into Blenheim Place means that traffic currently using this access has to find alternative routes.
- London Road/Easter Road/Carlton Terrace Brae – This is the most obvious route for traffic that finds the right turn into Blenheim Place blocked. However, the right turn from London Road into Easter Road is very difficult because only two or three cars can turn at each traffic light signal change. This becomes a source of irritation to drivers waiting in long queues along London Road. The right turn from the top of Easter Road into Carlton Terrace Brae is a five-road junction and is extremely difficult (refer to section 5.5). It is also almost a 180 degree U-turn to get into the Brae. This is very difficult for large vehicles.
- Leith Street/Waterloo Place/Regent Road/Carlton Terrace Brae – In order to evade the difficult junction of London Road and Easter Road, traffic can travel south on Leith Street, left into Waterloo Place and Regent Road and then left up into Carlton Terrace Brae into the Terraces. However, the Leith Street/Waterloo Place junction becomes jammed with traffic, particularly at rush hour. Also, it is not easy for luxury buses and HGVs to make the sharp left turn into Waterloo Place.
- Leith Street/Calton Road/Abbeyhill/Abbeymount/Carlton Terrace Brae – This route turns left off Leith Street before the heavily trafficked Waterloo Place junction and, in theory, could be a quicker route than the previous one at rush hour. However, the roads are only suitable for light traffic.
5.11 All three alternative routes involve a considerable increase in journey times compared to the existing arrangements. Journey times can increase up to five fold depending on routes. Increases in distance and journey means associated delays and increases in costs for suppliers etc. Taxi fares, at current rates, increase by between £4 and £6 on average. This is a completely disproportionate burden for residents and businesses of the Terraces.
5.12 In an undated brief by the Council and tie Ltd., it was suggested that traffic coming from the west along London Road should turn left into Hillside Crescent. Vehicles should then turn right across London Road to come back in a westerly direction and use the left-in turn into Blenheim Place. We think this is a potentially dangerous manoeuvre at rush hour when all four lanes in London Road are packed. It is also very difficult for large vehicles to turn left into Blenheim Place.
5.13 During discussions between tie Ltd. and the Residents Association (RRCTA) on 20/10/09 at 20 Regent Terrace, a further route for traffic approaching the Terraces from the west was proposed. This involves travelling east on Queen Street, turning right into Hanover Street (TL), left into George Street (TL), left into St. Andrews Square (TL), north and east side of square (TL), South St. Andrews Street (TL), Princes Street (TL), Waterloo Place (TL), Regent Road (TL), Carlton Terrace Brae into the Terraces. This involves going through eight sets of TL (traffic lights), a polluting and frustrating alternative.
Increase in Carbon Emissions and Pollution
5.14 The longer routes detailed above and the consequently increased journey times have a significant impact environmentally. Assuming about 800 vehicles per day use the Blenheim Place entry at present, in future this will mean an extra 420,000 vehicle kilometres per year or 90 tonnes extra of carbon dioxide emissions per year. To which must be added increased nitrous oxide, hydrocarbon and particulate emissions. Meanwhile, the Edinburgh Council leaflet “Edinburgh Trams Traffic Regulation Order” states that the new tram system is environmentally friendly. Also, the Edinburgh Council Carbon Management Programme aims to have a vast reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. What they are proposing for Blenheim Place is hardly according to their remit.
Effect on Business
5.15 Hotels and businesses in the Terraces are gravely concerned about the proposal to close the right turn in to Blenheim Place from London Road. This junction was temporarily closed from June 2008 until November 2009 for considerable periods of time, including the busy summer season. Hotel business in terms of rates and occupancy was affected during this time. The prospect of a permanent closure of the right turn is without doubt alarming. .
5.16 The Royal Terrace Hotel, the largest in Royal Terrace, was bought in 2003 by the present owners, Prima Group, because of the uniqueness of the area. In the due diligence process, no mention was made of the possibility of restricted access. They have undertaken major refurbishment and the hotel employs a large number of local staff, thereby benefiting the local economy. The hotel pays a considerable amount in VAT and council tax payments as well as to its employees on the payroll. This hotel organises tours and groups as well as having individual guests to stay. Visitors complained about the difficulty they had in reaching the hotel – getting lost, coach drivers being unable to deliver and collect passengers, deliveries and refuse collection being affected. There is also the deep concern of possible delays in the case of an accident or emergency.
5.17 The alternative route at Carlton Terrace Brae is a difficult access point particularly for coaches and delivery vehicles. This proposal, to cut the access off from the city will most definitely damage businesses.
5.18 Smaller hotels, some of which have been operating for almost 30 years, experience similar problems with the viability of their business being brought into question.
5.19 As well as hotels, there are a number of other businesses on the Terraces that are very concerned and whose businesses are likely to suffer if the proposed ban on the right turn into Blenheim Place goes ahead. These include apartment hotels, short term lets, the Bank of New York Mellon (which employs 250 people), a Michelin-starred restaurant, the Dofos pet shop and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Security and Safety
5.20 During the preparatory stages of the tram track laying in Leith Walk, the Blenheim Place entrance was closed off for most of the period between June 2008 and November 2009. This temporary closure enabled residents to see just what an impact a permanent closure would have on our Terraces.
5.21 Residents are considerably alarmed at the safety implications of taking away the right turn into the Terraces at Blenheim Place. Having only one main access point at Carlton Terrace Brae is extremely unsafe as was demonstrated at New Year when the Brae had to be closed by police because of treacherous weather conditions. Other reasons for the Brae to be cut off could be by civil demonstrations, football crowds or if a large vehicle breaks down or has an accident.
5.22 In view of safety concerns about this Brae, in January 1998, it was converted to a one-way street up the slope from Abbeymount into the Terraces, i.e. westwards. Residents objected to restricted access and the Brae reverted to two-way traffic in June 1998.
5.23 The proposed reduction in incoming traffic from London Road has a very significant impact on traffic movement along the terraces. Royal Terrace effectively becomes a one-way street. Vehicles travel faster and often overtake. This is a well-reported consequence of a one-way system and one of the reasons that Edinburgh Council do not recommend this option as a method of traffic calming. Traffic calming is an important issue for residents of the Terraces.
5.24 Pedestrian safety is also compromised. One of the benefits of traffic is its effectiveness as a monitor for safety. Reduced traffic numbers means that the area is more isolated. Royal Terrace is also sided on the north by large public gardens, so passing traffic plays an important role in protection. During the temporary closure period, residents felt unsafe walking these long streets. The Police reported to residents of Royal Terrace who had been burgled that reduced traffic leads to increased crime.
5.25 Unfortunately there is a recorded incident of just this risk. A young lady living in the Terraces was assaulted in the summer of 2009 when Blenheim Place was closed. To avoid the extra taxi fare incurred because of the increased journey, she had walked the last 200 yards home and was attacked.
5.26 Historically, there has been and still is an active sex industry in the Royal Terrace gardens. Although the gardens have recently been opened up and improved, the dim lighting and the lack of through traffic encourages rather than discourages this activity.
5.27 Residents need to feel secure and safe in the heart of the city. The extended routes and the hazardous junction which becomes the main entry point to the Terraces means that access becomes fundamentally risky. It must also impact on the ability of emergency vehicles to reach the properties quickly.
5.28 As mentioned in 5.23, our group feels strongly that traffic calming along Royal Terrace is very important. In the long run we would like to achieve safe, sensible traffic movement within the Terraces using Blenheim Place for full and proper access.
Marginalisation and Isolation of the Church
5.29 Greenside Church at 1b Royal Terrace was founded in 1839 and, as well as being a place of worship, is a vital service to the community.
5.30 The church has suffered huge inconvenience and frustration while Blenheim Place was temporarily closed for the best part of 2008 and 2009. The proposal to cut off Blenheim Place permanently is truly alarming. Greenside Church is a burgh church and most parishioners come by car from far and wide. Not many of the congregation live locally. There is therefore a perception that the church is difficult to get to. Funerals and weddings are difficult to arrange and people get lost. With no through traffic, the street becomes quieter and more dangerous. The church faces the prospect of a slow and enforced decline in local life. Many in the congregation are elderly and need to take a taxi to get to church. The extra fare is often prohibitive.
5.31 In addition to church services, a large number of people use the church premises for community activities of various kinds. For example, the Leith Scouts meet regularly on Monday evenings and the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides on Friday evenings. The After School Club meets every weekday for several hours. Parents complain that the church is much harder to reach when they come to pick up their children.
5.32 Another example of church activity is the New Life Christian Fellowship that meets at Greenside Church regularly. Indian dancing classes are held twice a week and the St. Andrew Ambulance Services meet once a week. Asian Concern for Christians of different ethnic backgrounds and denominations is also based at Greenside. During the Edinburgh Festival, Greenside Church is used for Fringe productions. Greenside Church is also a member of the Care Shelter and provides hot meals and a bed for the night to homeless people two or three times a year. All these activities depend on easy access to and from the church in order to carry on.
Marginalisation and Isolation of the Community
5.33 The proposed road closure and the problematic and restricted access make the Terraces difficult to reach. People are put off visiting, particularly ad hoc “dropping in”. This compounds a feeling of isolation as well as the physical isolation that road closure brings.
5.34 One of the great benefits of city centre living is a sense of connectedness. The community within the Terraces has been and is traditionally linked to Leith and Broughton. The ‘New Town and Broughton Community Council’ represents us. Road closure effectively removes us from these local communities.
5.35 Inevitably, as traffic reroutes, new shopping and service patterns emerge. Local shops and businesses will suffer. Visitors and tourists will find it difficult to access the streets, and in the long term isolation is liable to turn into neglect. The Terraces will be, quite literally, “off the map”.
Flawed Design Brief
5.36 There are various technical reasons why the design of the Blenheim Place junction was flawed. These are shown in the report No. 20454 dated March 2010 prepared for the Group by Goodson Cole Transportation entitled “Report on Proposed Changes at Blenheim/London Road Junction” submitted with this report to the Council during the TRO objection period.
5.37 Edinburgh Council design teams mistakenly believed that road closure would be acceptable to the residents of the Terraces. The partial closure of Blenheim Place was thus included in the Tram TRO. Edinburgh Council themselves did not undertake any review of opinion.