THERE is a reason why relatively little has altered on Princes Street and George Street over the years, despite almost universal agreement that something need to change.
The reason for that stasis is that change tends to come at a cost. You cannot, for instance, create more space to help pedestrians and cyclists feel at home without taking away space that is currently dedicated to other uses, such as parking cars.
The crucial question is whether the price is worth paying, whether the improvements that the new-look city centre would bring would outweigh the downside.
It would be easy to portray the argument for change versus the status quo as a crude battle between motorists and those who travel by foot and pedal. The reality, however, is far more complex and subtle than that.
The city centre relies on a variety of visitors in order to thrive, among them motorists and delivery van drivers popping into local businesses, shoppers travelling by bus, office staff who cycle to work, and all manner of other types.
In order to be successful, the city centre needs to be as accommodating as possible to them all.
Striking the right balance is the trick.
The loss of 140 parking spaces from George Street will seriously upset that balance. It is already hard to find parking spaces on the street at certain times, cutting the number of spaces will make it pretty much impossible.
Some rely on their cars to do their business in the city centre, others choose to do so for a variety of reasons, and they should be accommodated alongside pedestrians and cyclists.
Until more details are available on where the replacement parking spaces will be created – on adjoining streets or half a mile away – it is impossible to tell what the impact of the changes will be.
The council’s vision has a lot to commend it, but it needs more flesh on the bones.