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Legal Action possibilities against councillors force them to adjourn the vote

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Dated: 21-09-2011

Transport Committee TRO votes shambles---- vital votes put off until November because Legal advice has councillors too worried to vote.

 

 

PRESS RELEASE –

 

  • Residents were left stunned as vital transport Tram meeting ends in shambles

 

  • The meeting was over before it started—because Councillors are apparently now to be given legal training and instruction in order to understand the advice they are being given by lawyers!

 

  • Who is running the Edinburgh?  Lawyers or elected representatives

 

Residents left a vital Transport Committee meeting at Edinburgh City Chambers stunned after discussion of the Traffic Regulation Orders, and their attempt to have Shandwick Place re-opened ended before it began.

 

Yet more legal advice from Lawyers for the Council/TIE appears to have resulted in councillors being told they could face personal legal action as the trams project spirals further into chaos.

 

Because of this advice the meeting heard a motion that all TRO decisions should be put off until November---and that councillors would receive legal instruction designed to helpthem understand the advice pouring from the Lawyers responsible for the project. 

 

Residents had been expecting to put a compelling presentation to the meeting showing how simply returning Shandwick Place to general traffic could bring great benefits, and how easy it would be to do.

 

But as things turned out they never got the chance as yet another meeting ended with democratic debate silenced for ‘Legal Reasons’.

 

            ____________________________________________

Allan Alstead,one of the residents in a packed public gallery that emptied within seconds, said outside: “It seems farcical that virtually every aspect of this major public project is now being closed down by Lawyers advice.

 

“It’s possibly a bit late in the day for councillors to suddenly be getting worried over the effects and consequences of their decisions at this stage of the process.  What is significant is that TIE and those in charge of the project have tried to conceal this for them.”

But I suppose it indicates our message is now getting through--- the pollution issue is a most serious one; and until now it appears as if the plan of Officials from TIE and CEC was to simply try and ignore, or hide,  this message.”

 

“This shows councillors are, in effect, becoming really concerned, and who could blame them?  They don’t want to be left personally liable and carrying the can for blunders by the council as a whole.”

 

“If this is a sign that the council are finally coming round to recognising this is something that must be faced up to and dealt with properly then I suppose it will be a good thing--- but it is just one more use by faceless officials of ‘Legal reasons’ to stifle debate and force the project through regardless, then that is a different matter.”

 

Another resident Ashley Lloyd, due to present the scientific evidence, said: “ If this whole project has got to the stage where councillors feel they cannot judge the issues then that in itself shows something is very wrong with the process.”

“I feel sorry for the ordinary councillors trying to find a clear way through the torrent of legal advice coming from the Lawyers, as it all it seems to achieve is greater distance between the parties who should be working together to find a solution.”

 

“Of course they need to be sure they don’t have personal liability in this --- but that understandable caution shouldn’t be allowed to get TIE and the Council as corporate bodies, off the hook over the shambles the project has descended into.”

 

“We are remaining very focussed on the bad and harmful effects of traffic short-sightedly and casually squeezed down the streets in which we live, knowing that what we are seeing then tens of thousands more people will see down the line.”

 “But that doesn’t mean we are unaware of all those aspects that spring from the same lack of clear planning and decent management that has failed to see and confront the problem of air quality impacts; the crisis enveloping the funding around the entire scheme for instance.”

 

“Nobody can blame councillors for feeling worried—but that it has got to this stage where the meetings of democratically elected representatives cannot go ahead time and again because of ‘Legal reasons’ you do have to start to worry about what kind of democracy we now have.”

ENDS.

  

A week of farce ends with lawyers banning councillors from voting

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Dated: 17-09-2010

IT’S OBVIOUS THE COUNCIL’S LAWYER IS RUNNING EVERYTHING NOW—NOT THE COUNCILLORS.

 

 

PRESS RELEASE –

 

  • The Council solicitor is having more and more influence on the battle by residents to have their case heard fairly.

 

  • At a vital TIE meeting on Tuesday the solicitor has decided not to allow democracy to be done or seen to be done.

 

 

  • For good measure he has also stopped the city centre councillors from voting on it as well.

 

  • Who is the Council solicitor, when did we vote him or her, or them, in?

 

 

 

There is obviously a place for legal advice to provide a framework of informed support for debate on complex subjects----But where does ‘advice’ end and ‘democracy’ begin?

In recent weeks the council didn’t attend a meeting called by Lothian Health Board because of‘Legal reasons’

 

A motion put to the council by resident’s councillors was hacked to pieces at the last moment and all the main points removed ‘for Legal Reasons’.

The city’s air quality experts cannot speak because of‘Legal Reasons’

 

Now Residents are to be prevented from speaking about the issues again because of‘Legal reasons’; and their democratically elected councillors have their vote taken from them becauseof ‘Legal Reasons’

 

The last seems to be because in the past they have, as one put it, ‘expressed clear views on the TRO and thereby (unwittingly) debarred ourselves from taking part in the vote

But in a number of decision making meetings previously haven’t all members expressed clear views whether for or against both in debate and in the way they vote.

 

How can the simply expressing views on an issue in the City debar councillors from then voting?  How can any councillor ever express an honest view, or relay the views of constituents, under this kind of use of ‘Legal Reasons’

 

Of course there isn’t time for the residents to challenge what seems a bizarre reading of the ‘personal and prejudicial interests’ section of the code of conduct for councillors of the Standards Commission for Scotland

 

So as ordinary citizens concerned about a problem the council simply will not face up to, we are left to publicise it as widely as we can before, no doubt, we get threatened by‘Legal Reasons’

 

If we are wrong then why don’t they just prove us wrong and we’ll go away---But don’t destroy democracy by hiding behind‘Legal Reasons’ at every turn.

 There are 134,500 households in Edinburgh who the council know will face worse air pollution if the tram is ever rolled out than they would have without it.   This over 20% more than the number of people who will have improved air quality if it is rolled out.

Air pollution leading to more asthma especially in children who wouldn’t otherwise get it,  and more deaths before time, especially in older people, who wouldn’t otherwise die as soon, is the issue If the Council could find legal reasons to suppress this then they probably would---but unfortunately the above statistics are their own figures intheir own report*.

*STAG appraisal report by consultants Mott MacDonald  for tie section 7:12 pages 113-114

ENDS 

Council block questions residents walk out

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Dated: 14-09-2010

COUNCIL’S VIEW ON AIR POLLUTION – We don’t think it matters much it’s only ‘aspirational’.

 

 

PRESS RELEASE –

 

  • At the first of three  ‘meet the people’ exercises in Edinburgh; Council officers admit the problem with air pollution from traffic exceeding Scottish, EU and UK levels --- but dismiss it by saying the levels are only ‘aspirational’.

 

  • Not only are TIE and the City Council saying pollution doesn’t matter at existing levels -------- they are not concerned that their own actions are creating even higher levels.

 

 

  • Their own figuresshow 134,500 households in Edinburgh WILL have WORSE Air Quality in Terms of dangerous particulate PM10 by 2026

 

 

  • This isn’t ‘going to happen anyway’—it is going to happen BECAUSE of the tram being forced through—The tram causes the problem.

 

  • At the meeting the Council approach seems to be that it’s all a question of mind over matter…. Air pollution doesn’t matter, and they don’t mind it at all.

 

A group of Edinburgh residents walked out of the first of three ‘open doors’ meetings shocked and saddened at the way council officers reacted to their concerns.

 

The meetings, attended by a team of officials, environmental health people and planners, were supposed to shed light on the project.

 

Instead the Council/Tie team spent the evening evading questions saying ‘wider Issues’, such as the dangers to health posed by the displaced traffic, would be handled at a later stage in TRO’s 2 and 3.  When pressed on THIS point Alan Bowenfor the council, agreed there was no guarantee they would ever be addressed at all.

 

This method of postponing debate about issues of concern, and then later blocking debate because ‘they should have been raised earlier’ is precisely the tactic relied on by the Council throughout this project.

 

Unable to get straight answers to straight questions the residents decided there was no point in hearing the official’s views on non-issues and left the meeting.

 

OutsideAlistair Laing, one of the residents, said:” In a way we were almost expecting it but an American friend of mine Professor James Fraser, a retired Criminologist came along just to see Scottish local democracy in action, and he was extremely shocked at what he described as the off hand way people were treated by the officials.”

 “The final straw was Allan Bowen’s assertion that the main issue that concerns us all of the displaced traffic and the various effects, on health, life, and the world heritage buildings; couldn’t be talked about in any way because it might come under ‘wider issues’ .”

 

“When he then couldn’t give a guarantee, or even an assurance, it would ever be openly debated it was clear the whole evening was a waste of time---ours and theirs.”

 

 

Another resident Allan Alstead said: “The way the meeting was set up and conducted, and the debate carefully controlled, is absolutely typical of the way the whole tram project has been run.

 

They want to seem to be doing something and give the appearance of democratic accountability but in reality they feel they own the City and the residents are just an inconvenience.”

“We have all seen the enormous efforts made to change the whole of society to bring in the ban on smoking indoors in any public place --- air quality pollution is three times worse in terms of its effects yet a council official can blithely sit there and tell us that for traffic created air pollution the target levels are ‘aspirational’!”

“There are another 134,000 households in Edinburgh who will find out soon enough what the effects on their lives will be of this way of thinking if nothing is done---there is still time to solve this, but the council need a sea change in attitude to start admitting the problem before they can hope to find a solution.”

Ends….. 

SEPA Urban air quality seminar

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Dated 09-09-2010

Headlines from SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) hosted conference of Air Quality Council Officers, Consultants and Transport Planning experts held in Edinburgh.

 

  • More people die each year in the UK because of causes attributable to poor air quality than died in the whole of the Blitz---50,000.

 

  • The gain in life expectancy through reducing traffic pollution is around 4 times in life expectancy terms than the gain in reducing passive smoking.

 

  • Remember all the fuss about passive smoking and the smoking bans?  Of course you do it has been one of the biggest and longest running health stories of the last two decades

 

  • Remember the fuss about poor air quality caused by the tram being up to 4 times bigger a problem than passive smoking?  er---No!

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PRESS RELEASE –Residents worried about pollution levels resulting from Edinburgh’s tram scheme were happy to be given the chance ask questions of experts gathered for the prestigious Urban Air Quality Conference hosted by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and held at the Scottish Government Offices at Victoria Quay, Leith.

 

  • Edinburgh Tram scheme planners, and City councillors are blind to the magnitude of real health risks from poor air quality

 

  • The current financial troubles of the project should be seen as an opportunity to reassess the dangers while there IS still time.

 

 

  • The tram scheme is not a Green solution—it will MAKE air pollution worse in Edinburgh.

 

The Urban Air Quality conference examined the same issues residents have been battling to bring to the attention of the council without any success.

The council should turn their cash problems into an opportunity to take a new look at the deaths and children’s illnesses that the present scheme will have on people across the City

Ordinary residents attended the conference and took the chance to talk with experts---- the facts speak for themselves.

Which is just as well because TIE and CEC refuse to talk to the people –perhaps because they know the facts, but are frightened to let ordinary people know.

 

One of the residents who attended, Allan Alstead, said: “The introduction by one of the UK’s leading experts Dr Enda (corr) Hayes of the University of West of England opened the conference with two statements that are almost beyond belief in a way.”

 

“The first was that more people will die this year in Great Britain earlier than they otherwise should; through poor air quality, than died in the Blitz through the whole of the Second World War.”

 

“That is shocking!”

 

“The second fact that Dr Hayes highlighted is that if we can reduce air pollution caused by traffic the gain in life expectancy for everyone will be around three times more than reducing passive smoking!”

 

“The experts accepted this as an everyday fact but, speaking as someone who is not an expert, I was amazed.”

 

“But not as amazed as when I heard the frustrations of a number of the experts that, in effect, they are left to twiddle their thumbs on the sidelines until the politicians decide it’s safe to call them in.”

 

“I went to the meeting simply to try and get more information about how exactly the Tram scheme can create pollution when officials and councillors have spent many years telling us all that it is a great Green success story.”.”

 

“But I came away stunned…. The situation is far worse than I thought.”

 

Alistair Laing, another concerned residentsaid:

 “It’s clear thing s are far worse than I thought, and far—far worse than the ordinary Edinburgh man, or woman, in the street thinks.”

“The worst thing is that the air pollution experts know they are only brought into a scheme when it is far too late--- which is something we have been saying for months.”

“At the present time most people are looking at the sheer cost of this scheme and the money that has been wasted through incompetence and hubris”

“ Of course that is bad…but as ordinary Edinburgh people who love our city  have been more worried about the health of ourselves and people like us.”

 

“The council are not telling the whole truth; as the conference clearly showed that their own professional experts are incredibly frustrated because planners are producing ideas but without air quality experts having any real involvement”

“Only after a plan… such as the Edinburgh Tram scheme… has been sorted out are Air quality experts brought in.”

 

By then it’s far too late for their opinions to change anything and they are left justifying schemes that they know in their hearts are going to have extremely serious health effects on ordinary people whose health should come before anything else.”

 

“Instead of being one of the main things---Health is one of the last things that gets considered.

 

“  The people at the conference are some of the most knowledgeable in  the world when it comes to air pollution and health effects of bad quality air and frankly they are frustrated and depressed that politicians see them as the people to provide the alibi after something like the tram scheme has been agreed.”

 

“Air quality, preserving life and making sure children don’t have to become asthmatic  should be there at the top of list along with creating jobs and making the city better, but they aren’t.”

 

“The experts know that, and the politicians who are ultimately responsible know that, the only people who don’t know it are the ordinary people.”

Ends 

The Council's Buried Figures 24-08-2010

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Edinburgh Trams--- good for the residents and Council taxpayers OR tourists?

 

 

PRESS RELEASE –

Residents worried about the troubled Edinburgh tram system have found figures buried in a consultants report TO the council that showed that in 2003 the council were told by their own experts that from the start vast numbers of homes across the whole of Edinburgh would be worse off in terms of pollution, noise and traffic congestion BECAUSE of the tram becoming operational.

 

  • TIE were told at the start by their own expert consultants that 134,000 homes would be worse off by 2026 - compared to 2001 -  EVEN WITH the planned tram scheme in place
  • Yet the council is still broadcasting this as a scheme that makes things better --when in fact figures the council have hidden show operating it may result in traffic pollution much worse in 2026 WITH the system than WITHOUT it.

 

 Edinburgh residents are desperately trying to get the council to recognise the proposed Tram system is now so flawed only a total reappraisal can be sure of salvaging something even at this stage.

 

The council’s own figures show that when comparing 2001 with 2011 with NO TRAM system over 238,000 households in Edinburgh would be better off in terms of air quality.

 

Why? Because vehicle and fuel technology was expected to produce this result even with NO TRAMS at all.

 

 By 2026 comparing the effects of NOT building the tram system at all ,with going ahead and building it  as planned  the experts  said in their own report the system would bring ‘ a minor positive impact’, In terms of air pollution

 

But initial figures produced by concerned residents living in the first few roads to experience traffic being funnelled from the former major cross city traffic routes—indicate that figures are already far worse than the council experts said they would be, back in  2003.

 

When this effect spreads across more and more residential areas the tram system will be seen to have exposed more residents to increased air pollution ---not reduced it.

 

By then it will be too late.

 

Spokesman for the group, Ashley Lloyd, has gathered together the data that shows the streets and schools that could be affected across Edinburgh, and far more severely than originally envisaged.

He says: “We are desperate to get someone, anyone, at the Council, in Tie, or in Holyrood to just start to talk openly about the plans as they stand.

 

“Because so much has changed since the original case for the trams was being prepared----including the decision to remove heavy vehicles from main roads and force them to use residential streets------  the present cash crisis actually gives the City an opportunity to re-examine what exactly we can afford now and what exactly the effects of that will really be on the citizens.

 

“It’s fallen to us to do this because we are the first to be affected; but we are far from the only ones--- the council’s own figures show this in their report back in 2003.

 

“ Far from being an enormous and inevitable ‘Green win’ for the City the Tram was always predicted to be never better than very marginal---and for many, many thousands of households it was always known it would be positively worse.”

 

“We can still change course and produce a transport system that benefits the City and the people who live in it instead of doggedly persisting with a scheme that now looks more likely, using the Council’s own projections, to do more bad than good.”

 

Allan Alstead, another concerned residentsaid: “The worst thing is that throughout the last few months we feel as if we, and everyone else,  are simply being ignored by the council supposed to represent us---and worked against by the council managers supposed to be employed by us!”

“What we keep saying isn’t drawn from thin air; it comes from the council’s own figures----- they knew at the beginning that tens of thousands of households  across Edinburgh  would be worse off in terms of air particulate pollution because of the tram being built because their own experts told them this in an expensively commissioned report.”

 

“They know now that things have only got worse since then---so the effects will be even worse.”

 

“The way they are trying to ignore and sideline our honestly held concerns is exactly the way they are dealing with similar honestly held concerns from many other people..”

 

“Everything has changed since the late nineties and early years of this century, so ordinary common sense shows there must come a point when carrying on regardless just isn’t an option.”.”

 

“Right now all we want is the council to stop hiding in the bunker and for councillors to just come out into the open and start talking honestly about where we can all go from here instead of hiding behind excuses.”

 

 “There are some enormously important decisions to be made in the next few weeks but the worrying signs at present are the TIE managers and council committee members closest to the project are going to try and continue down the same disastrous course as they have until now---and the councillors elected to oversee them are going to let them do it.”

End 

City of Edinburgh Council hear of unforseen pollution effects due to Tram project

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PRESS RELEASE –WITH PICTURE POSSIBILITIES

Edinburgh Council to hear today (actual date Tuesday 27th,  July) about unforeseen toxic traffic pollution threats caused by new City Tram scheme posing a threat to families.

 

  • Health threats from toxic traffic pollutants
  • Threat improperly understood by Councillors
  • Residents face health implications
  • Potential for EU fines in the millions for breaching air quality levels.
  • Not only residents facing pollutants threat-- many more schools now on roads taking displaced traffic

 

Edinburgh residents have won the right to make a presentation to councillors responsible for the troubled Edinburgh tram scheme

The residents all live in the World heritage area of the City that has seen a massive increase in traffic displaced by the long running road works needed to prepare the city for the arrival of the Trams.

They feel they have been kept in the dark about vital health issues while the council and contractors battle to keep the projects finances on track.

Spokesman for the group, Ashley Lloyd, has gathered data over a long period of time that shows the Great Stuart Street area and streets around are facing problems that could affect more areas of the city.

He says: “We feel the council simply have not had sufficient information to properly consider vibration and worst of all, traffic pollutants like the particulates PM2.5, PM 10 and the toxic gas Nitrogen dioxide (NO2).”

“Today is all about giving them the chance to see the Councils own traffic and Environment information which, put together, shows clearly that residents across Edinburgh face massive increases in exposure to traffic pollutants all of which are known to damage health.

“The EU certainly take these traffic pollutants seriously and have powers to fine countries consistently breaking the acceptable level….in Great Stuart Street, to give just one example, the levels of NO2 monitored by the Council in December 2009 ranked it as the second most polluted street in Edinburgh, with over twice the EU statutory limit for an annual average.  This can be compares with ten years ago when it was one of the least polluted streets measured by the council.”

“We were the first part of Edinburgh to experience traffic diverted into residential streets from main roads along the tram route.  This rise is set to happen now over more streets across the Capital, many with schools on them where, like Great Stuart Street, the traffic was previously much lower.”

Allan Alstead, another concerned residentsaid: “We are not against a tram system as such, but it cannot be right that the system is being implemented in such a way that pollution is being increased.”

“The Nitrogen dioxideis heavier than air so tends to settle into cellars and lower levels, and of course Edinburgh has a lot of these properties, where families with children are being constantly exposed to it---and at night time levels can be similar to those recorded during day time.”

“Pollutants like particulates and Nitrogen Dioxide are heavier than air so are likely to settle into cellars and lower levels, and of course Edinburgh has a lot of these properties, where families with children are being constantly exposed to it ---- and at night time levels, when large diesel-engined lorries are passing through to make deliveries NO2 levels can even be higher than those recorded during the day time.”

Research shows that the gas gathers more in ‘Urban Canyons’, exactly like many Edinburgh streets where relatively narrow roadways have tall buildings either side.”

“Previously when through traffic was on specifically designed through routes the gas was dispersed relatively harmlessly---Princes street for instance has wide open spaces and, while present, the gas disperses far more easily there, and on the other wider streets that traditionally carried the now displaced traffic through the city.”

The residents group are worried that councillors, concerned about other well-publicised problems besetting the project, are being diverted from looking at the mounting evidence that current plans to divert traffic away from tram routes will lead to increased levels of pollution in residential areas across the city, especially at night when exposure to pollution is highest; and the health impacts potentially more serious.

  

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