George Street billboards and bus shelters bid to be vetoed

One of the bus stops in George Street. Picture: Neil Hanna
One of the bus stops in George Street. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A BID to roll out new bus stops and digital billboards on George Street has come under fire amid fears they will spoil views and “damage” the area’s historic character.

New shelters are currently being erected across the city as part of a multi-million-pound contract between the council and global advertising giant JCDecaux.

But all nine of JCDecaux’s recent applications to pepper George Street with replacement bus shelters and three-metre-high illuminated billboards have been recommended for refusal by officials.

The council previously told JCDecaux the plans were not suitable, but it submitted an application anyway.

A report by planning officials said: “The introduction of digital advertisements on bus shelters into this visually sensitive location would damage the unique and special historical character of George Street.

“The proposal will detract from views running west to east, and from the setting of and views to a number of listed buildings. The proposal will also result in street clutter which will be uncharacteristic of and detrimental to George Street’s special historical setting.”

Heritage chiefs said 
JCDecaux’s plans flew in the face of wider efforts to open George Street up to pedestrians and cyclists.

Marion Williams, director of heritage group the Cockburn Association, said: “Shame on them. I don’t know why they think they can behave like this. Up to now they have been putting these large hoardings on the outskirts of the city.

“Now, to come into the city centre with these proposals, I don’t know what they think they are doing. I don’t think they have an understanding of the World Heritage Site.”

The advertising giant’s George Street plans, which go before councillors next week, are just the latest in a string of controversies for the company.

Last year, we revealed as many as one in 20 of the Capital’s new bus shelters would need to have their seats replaced – because they were too high to sit on.

And earlier this year, a brand new bus stop was erected in Saughton Road North despite no services using the route.

A council spokeswoman said: “While we are working in partnership with JCDecaux as part of the advertising contract, George Street is one of Edinburgh’s premier streets and therefore proposals were not considered appropriate for the setting. We will continue to work with JCDecaux to pursue more appropriate opportunities.”

JCDecaux declined to comment.

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com