A GROUNDSWELL of opposition has united against a major traffic shake-up that would create a one-way city centre loop.
The new system is set to be trialled over 12 months as part of a controversial masterplan to deliver pedestrian-only precincts, boost the night-time economy and develop a cafe culture in the heart of the Capital.
But George Street businesses say the plans would hit trade in Edinburgh’s most prestigious shopping district by substituting swathes of parking spaces for bus stops.
Calls have been made to scrap the project and for a more “radical” overhaul such as underground parking.
The proposed concept for “a living city centre” would see all traffic banned from the north side of Princes Street and George Street’s south side, with a looping one-way system introduced.
Buses, taxis and cyclists would travel westbound along Princes Street and eastbound on George Street.
Businessman Josh Millar, chair of the George Street Association, said there was minimal support for the shake-up among local traders.
“I haven’t spoken to a single person who is in favour of this,” he said. “They just say ‘this is going to wreck George Street’.
“We have tried buses on George Street and we know that the lovely cafe society experience created over the last ten years does not work with the noise and pollution of buses.
“It will affect business because of the loss of parking and retailers will be affected if people can’t get to them.”
It is understood the initial blueprint for the project had to be revised following an outcry over plans to consider removing 140 parking bays from the centre of George Street.
Concerns have now been raised that George Street is not equipped to cope as a main bus route and that centuries-old buildings may deteriorate under the stress.
David Welch, general manager of the George Hotel, said: “Many of the buildings on George Street date back to 1700 and are quite delicate. There are architectural features here that are not designed to take the heavy vibrations of buses.”
Denzil Skinner, chair of Essential Edinburgh, which represents 600 city centre traders, said planning chiefs “ignored consensus concerns” during public consultations.
He said: “As things stand, we believe that these proposals will jeopardise the city centre’s most successful street – George Street – and should be put on hold until a bigger, better and more holistic approach for future of the city centre can be found.
“It seems to us that in order to improve one of the city centre’s key streets in the long term, the proposal will simply adversely impact on another key street – and immediately. That view has been made plain to the council by those organisations representing the city centre businesses.”
Transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “These measures will be implemented on a trial basis and we will be monitoring the impact on George Street and Princes Street very closely throughout the 12-month period. George Street businesses will, of course, be part of the monitoring group.”