Edinburgh's historic New Town will be transformed by traffic ban

A new survey shows two-thirds of capital residents will be more likely to visit New Town as a result of Edinburgh City Council’s pedestrianisation plans.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 7:42 pm

Cars are set to be banned from George Street as part of radical transformation plans to open up the space for pedestrians, bikes, and outdoor seating areas.

The historic street, which during normal times can become severely gridlocked with drivers trying to find on-street car parking spaces, will be given a ‘European boulevard feel’ to better accentuate the A-listed buildings that adorn it.

Bus stops will be located at either end of the city centre, and car parking will remain for blue badge holders and for loading access for businesses.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

How George Street could look without traffic

The plans form part of Edinburgh City Council’s ten-year transformation project, which will see the city centre become largely car-free by 2030.

Now, a council survey of 654 Edinburgh residents has produced positive results for the local authority.

A report, produced by Glasgow consultancy firm Streets UK on behalf of the council, reads: “Overall feedback from the public had been very positive with 86% saying they would be more likely or just as likely to visit George Street in the future and most popular uses being for shopping, window shopping and socialising in the bars and restaurants.

Traffic free George Street could be a visitor magnet

“The vast majority of respondents advise they will walk, cycle or take the bus to George St with only 13% saying they’d drive. There’s been good public debate online via platforms such as Twitter.

“Overall, public feedback has been extremely positive with 66% of respondents advising the proposed works would make them more likely to visit George St.

“The biggest issue raised by the public has been a request for more greening/ trees as part of the landscaping with 64% specifically requesting trees.”

The consultation also found that the preferred modes of travel in the future are walking, cycling and taking the bus - with only 13% of the consultee saying they would travel by car in the future.

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, the SNP transport and environment convener, said: “These concept designs for George Street build on years of engagement with local people, businesses and active travel and mobility organisations, so I’m delighted with the positive response we’ve had from these very groups, along with the general public.

“Our vision for this street is a relaxed, open and accessible space, where people want to spend time, visit local shops, restaurants and cafes and enjoy the unique historic setting.

“Feedback so far has demonstrated that our plans will encourage people to do just that, as well as choosing to travel there by foot, bike or public transport.

Councillor Karen Doran, the Labour vice convener of the transport and environment committee, said: “It was really exciting to see plans for this iconic part of the city brought to life earlier this year, and I know lots of people enjoyed watching the animated videos and imagining how they could enjoy the street in future.

“Now, thanks to feedback gathered over recent months we’ll be able to refine designs before moving forward with the project and delivering the many benefits it will bring.”

Edinburgh City Council first agreed to increase pedestrian space in the city centre in 2013 and beginning in 2014 a new layout was trialled for 18 months on George Street.

Since then design principles have been developed and the project was widened to include the interconnecting Castle, Frederick and Hanover Streets and the junctions with Charlotte and St Andrew Squares.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.