When the Spaces for People fund was announced with much fanfare in April of this year, I felt it was a small silver lining to the horrendous events that were unfolding across the world. Here at last was a real opportunity for us to make sustainable changes in how our shared space is used. The Scotland-wide fund, administered by Sustrans, was supposed to enable communities to walk, cycle or wheel more safely, which in turn would protect public health, support physical distancing and even help to prevent a second wave of the disease.
West Lothian council was awarded £645,000 – a massive amount - which translated as £3.50 per head of population. However, since the award was announced in July, not much has happened. Apparently, some work has been done clearing cycle paths (which should have been done anyway), and some temporary speed limits have been put in place on rural roads, but here in Linlithgow for example, we have seen no changes whatsoever.
Where are the pavement-widening measures that would make it easier for those using wheelchairs, or with young children to socially distance? Where is any easing of the parking problems that have plagued Linlithgow for years? Indeed, the carpark at the Vennel started implementing charges again at the height of lockdown, which has pushed many car users to return to double parking along the High Street. Looking at the Spaces for People plans for Linlithgow, it seems there was only ever intended to be a temporary pavement-widening at Oliphant’s Bakery and some suspended parking near the station. This, to me, does not shout of a bold vision of the future, but then, what’s new with West Lothian Council?
I appreciate the fact that West Lothian Council applied for the grant when some other local authorities couldn’t even be bothered to do that, but I am sorely disappointed once again in the lack of a cohesive plan, or any real innovation that would transform communities.
The West Lothian Liberal Democrats have proposed a permanent network of safe and interconnected cycle networks across the region. We believe that traffic calming measures, including a reduction in speed limits, should be implemented on a permanent basis, rather than just a temporary one. And we would also like to see proper measures put in place to reduce car usage in town centres which would benefit all of us in the long-term, whether this is community-owned carparks, or the reintroduction of traffic wardens.
2020 has been a truly terrible year, all of our lives have been turned upside down. Yet the Liberal Democrats believe it is still possible to see this time as an opportunity to transform our communities and our shared space for the benefit of everyone.
West Lothian Liberal Democrats