Next chapter for Charlotte Square as investor unveils £4m vision

An artist's impression of the plans for the square. Picture: Open Architects

An artist's impression of the plans for the square. Picture: Open Architects

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A NEW £4 million bid to restore Charlotte Square to its Georgian grandeur was unveiled today.

Fordell Estates, a Bermuda-based property investor, wants to remove ugly street “clutter” and improve the “confusing, disorientating and unusable” layout of the area.

The road would be reduced to just one lane, with extra pavement space being created for pedestrians to mingle.

The proposals have won the backing of a string of local property owners and businesses, with former Rangers owner Sir David Murray backing it and the Edinburgh International Book Festival saying the plans will provide it with “new opportunities” to grow.

But concerns have also been expressed by some local residents that the traffic shake-up will cause problems for motorists.

Corran Properties, acting on behalf of Fordell Estates, believes that the change will reverse the increase in vehicle use around the square since the 1960s that it said has been “detrimental” to pedestrians.

Nick Ball, a director of Corran, said: “We are delighted with the support we have received for our proposal.”

In a design statement, the firm, which is also acting for Fordell in its project to transform the former National Trust for Scotland headquarters in Charlotte Square into a “boutique” financial district, said: “The scheme takes advantage of the ability to control traffic movement, with a new pedestrian space being defined within the square. This creates an environment within which people can feel comfortable, move through unobstructed, or remain within.”

The plans will not affect the gardens in the centre of the square, which will remain closed off to the public throughout the year, apart from during the book festival.

Andrew Coulton, administrative director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said: “Importantly, the road changes will significantly reduce traffic noise – a problem which has caused increasingly challenging problems for audiences in recent years.”

Sir David Murray, who owns a property on the north side of the square, said: “As a business operator and property owner in Charlotte Square, I am supportive of the proposals to make improvements to the public realm in the square.”

The developer estimates the project will cost £4 million, although it is likely to look for financial support from the council. Council officials, who have recommended the proposals are approved, have admitted there will be an impact on traffic and that drivers are likely to want to avoid the area at peak times.

Roderick Millar, who lives in nearby Moray Place, said: “This planning application needs to be rejected unless guaranteed solutions can be created that will prevent any increase in traffic through Randolph Crescent, Great Stuart Street and Ainslie Place.”

Councillors will make a final decision at a meeting on Wednesday.