By Martin Graham
CARS could soon get the green light to drive in Edinburgh’s West End again – if council bosses finally agree to lift current tram restrictions on health grounds.
Motorists have been banned from Shandwick Place since the controversial works began, forcing cars down side streets.
Residents living nearby claim their health has been put at risk from traffic fumes as a direct result of the new rat runs.
At a meeting today, packed out with interested members of the public, city councillors agreed to consider a report on the impact.
Ultimately, that could see cars return to the once thriving thoroughfare.
At a meeting of the Transport, Infrastructure and Environment committee, the group agreed to consider the findings of a report on the impact of the closure of the street to cars.
Addressing yesterday’s meeting local resident Ashley Lloyd said: “In Great Stuart Street the problem of nitrogen dioxide has become very bad.
“Ten years ago the street was rated as the fourth cleanest in Edinburgh.But now the levels of pollution have increased to beyond EU guidelines.
“In December 2009, one measure by the Council themselves ranked the street as the second most polluted in Edinburgh.”
The residents also dispute the council’s method of measuring pollution.
Mr Lloyd said: “The sensors are placed high up on poles, sometimes several metres in the air.
“We understand the need to protect sensitive and valuable equipment, but the pollutants, particularly nitrogen dioxide, tend to settle closer to the ground, where they may not be detected, or where their presence may be under represented.”
The residents claim that diverting traffic down narrow streets with high tenements on either side does not allow the exhaust pollutants to disperse.
Conservative councillor for the area Joanna Mowat said: “I would like to see Shandwick Place re-opened to traffic.
“The work done by residents to highlight the problem has been fantastic and the presentation was compelling.
“The closure of streets to traffic, particularly Shandwick Place, was not considered at the Parliamentary Bill stage, when it should have been.
“I would have preferred to see cars re-admitted immediately, agreeing to see a report is a peely wally motion.”
Speaking after the meeting, Ashley Lloyd explained how happy he was with the decision.
He said: “”I am pleased to say we had a good reception from the council today, the outcome was very positive.
“The motion to look at reopening Shandwick Place was passed with no objection.
“Looking at the future of transport systems in Edinburgh we have to consider all sort of possibilities for lowering omissions.
“There is a lot of things that could be done to improve the situation and I think the tram system is part of that.
“We are in a situation now that when if an HGV wants to deliver to a shop in Princes St it has to use these small residential roads – even at night when Princes Street is very quiet.
“These streets are tall sided and make the noise and vibrations very concentrated and it is having an impact on those of us who live here.”