Edinburgh Council investigates traffic ban during capital’s summer festivals

Shopping along Edinburgh's Princes Street on the last saturday before Christmas.
Shopping along Edinburgh's Princes Street on the last saturday before Christmas.
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Traffic could be banned from busy streets in the city centre as the council attempts to protect pedestrians during the Capital’s summer festivals.

Edinburgh City Council’s culture and communities committee will next week consider measures to improve the festival experience for residents and visitors next August, including better pedestrian and event space along the High Street, marketing George Street as a prominent festival destination as well as proposing the introduction of “temporary limits on vehicle access at certain times, in areas where pedestrian footfall is high”.

Concerns were raised in August over pedestrian safety and the council believes “the experience of Edinburgh during the summer festival time could be significantly improved”.

Cllr Donald Wilson, culture and communities convener, said: “The more successful the festivals become, the better we need to manage their sustainable growth and the impacts they have on the city.

“We know that no two summers are the same and the festivals are constantly evolving, so we must constantly review and update our operational plans to be in line with these changes.

“We have actively monitored feedback from citizens, businesses and visitors over the summer, and the changes we make now will help us enhance the experience of Edinburgh in August going forward.”

Council officers are concerned about a “growing tendency for pedestrians to spill onto roadways” and “increasing the potential for conflict with vehicles and accidents”.

The authority is proposing extending the festival space around the Royal Mile up to the junction with North Bridge for next year, including Hunter Square.

The council has pinned part of the blame for congested pavements on an increase in festival tour activities including walking and disco tours. The authority believes the greatest pressure is along the Royal Mile as well as Blair Street, Victoria Street and Cowgate. Police have also raised safety concerns about the number of pedestrians after 9pm at the junction of the Royal Mile and George IV Bridge.

Terry Levinthal from the Cockburn Association called for residents and businesses to be involved with any proposals to tackle the clogged streets.

He said: “We welcome the advancement of the proposals to come up with solutions for various open spaces and streets in the city.

“We would expect these proposals to be taken forward with substantial involvement with local groups and not under delegated powers from council officers.”

But Conservative culture spokesman Cllr Max Mitchell said: “The report details how busy the city was last August and the overcrowding this caused. To argue that attracting an extra 27,000 people to the centre of the city at a time of the year when consideration is being given to closing key roads which may divert bus services seems like madness as this will only make problems worse ... there needs to be space which can be freely enjoyed.”