A £560,000 upgrade of part of Leith that was once Scotland’s main trading port has been unveiled.
The city council is planning to press ahead with proposals to ban motorists from one side of the historic Shore area.
The changes will allow for a major upgrade of the area, including better quality and wider pavements, a line of trees at the side of the road, improvements to the Shore/Henderson Gardens junction and new granite bollards.
Council chiefs today unveiled images of how they expect the area to look following completion of the work, which is expected to begin next month.
It is hoped the changes will make the Shore more attractive to visitors, while encouraging local businesses to take advantage of “cafe culture”.
Local councillor Marjorie Thomas, who has campaigned for environmental improvements to the Shore, said: “Cafe culture is part of the equation but it is really to try to ease traffic along there because it is an ancient road with cobbled streets.
“If it was in any other country it would have been pedestrianised but unfortunately it has not been.
“It is a very pleasant part of Leith, and it is important to try to get people from outside down there.”
She added: “The pavements are in a terrible state, and if we want to attract people we won’t do so when the pavements are all broken and the street furniture is so poor.”
Under the traffic shake-up, only buses and bikes will be able to travel north on the section of road between Tolbooth Wynd and Bernard Street.
The upgrades are being funded by the council, with support from a £159,370 Heritage Lottery Fund grant and £24,000 from Historic Scotland.
Councillors will be asked to give final approval to the plans, which have been completed following a public consultation, at a meeting on Tuesday.
George Johnson, chairman of the Friends of the Water of Leith Basin, said: “The potential of the Shore is great. It already has a number of Michelin-starred restaurants and, if you look at places like Copenhagen, areas like the Shore have all been developed nicely.
“At the moment, the traffic scenario is like sitting in a motorway cafe, as heavy goods vehicles trundle down the cobbles. But this brings a lot of hope to Leith.
“Residents have worked very hard to bring this along. We are delighted the money has been found from several sources to pay for these new pavements with Caithness stone and removing some of the less appropriate signs and fences; it will just tidy up the place generally.”
Councillor Robert Aldridge, the city’s environment leader, said: “As our consultation demonstrated, there is widespread public support among residents, businesses and campaign groups for this section of the Shore to be made more pedestrian-friendly.
“These measures will go a long way towards improving accessibility and enhancing the bustling cafe culture ambience of the Shore area. In addition, the reduction of traffic will lead to lower vehicle emissions once the changes have bedded in.”