Leader: ‘There is much to admire in the plans’

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THERE is a lot to admire about Essential Edinburgh’s plans to transform large stretches of George Street into a traffic-free oasis for the Festival.

For a start, we will only be diverting cars and buses at a time when we can really make the most of the extra open space. What’s the point of inconveniencing motorists on a dreich day in February, but in August it opens up great possibilities. Even in a Scottish summer there will be days to bask in the sunshine, soak up the Festival atmosphere and enjoy some free entertainment – and all the while sipping your favourite drink.

Then there’s the beauty of it only being temporary. We can try it, see if we like it, and if we do we can repeat it all next summer. If not, there’s very little lost.

And the idea of keeping two lanes of George Street open along its full length means that the disruption to the day-to-day life of the city is limited.

At the same time we get a full mile of festivities which is guaranteed to draw residents and tourists alike in their droves.

The timing of this also throws up some intriguing possibilities.

With the tram works due to finish in less than 18 months, the time has come to start thinking about what we do after all the road works are over.

How can we get the most out of the city centre, both for the enjoyment of us all and to boost the businesses based there?

The idea of pedestrianised zones should be a part of that debate. Can they work in the city centre without unreasonably disrupting the essential flow of traffic across the Capital?

The tram works have given us a taste of a traffic-free Princes Street and there is already a campaign to make that arrangement permanent.

Who knows? Maybe there will be a similar push for George Street after the roaring success of this year’s Festival Mile.

One thing is certain, any serious long-term proposals need to work for the city as a whole and not just one particular area.

There is no easy answer. But it will hopefully give you something to think about while you sip your gin and tonic and enjoy the open-air entertainment this summer.