Edinburgh's George Street plans might not deliver hoped-for European sophistication – John McLellan

Plans for the semi-pedestrianisation of George Street have been revealed with much video hoopla, but those of us who’ve been around the great unveiling of grand city projects for far too long can be forgiven for our whelm being under-felt.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 7:00 am
The proposed plans for George Street look more a poorly devised steeplechase course than a great European boulevard, according to John McLellan (Picture: City of Edinburgh Council/PA Wire)

Looking more like a poorly devised steeplechase course than a great European boulevard, it at least has the advantage of being deliverable, but the question is what is being delivered.

The end of car parking obviously finishes it as a nip-in shopping destination and over a fifth of units are empty. As motorists are funnelled to new St James, such shops as are left will be queuing for places in the galleried mall.

Without shops, entertainment is the only alternative and if we are actually allowed to go to restaurants and bars again, it looks very like becoming a big entertainment strip with the Assembly Rooms at its heart.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

That may be no bad thing if properly managed and policed, but it’s a big if. With late-opening nightclubs, there could be all sorts of public order issues and the potential to make the Grassmarket on a Friday night look like a Holyroodhouse garden party.

It’s all very well producing nice sunny images of happy people riding their bikes between the hedges and locals enjoying a lunchtime latte, but for a significant amount of time it could involve groups of beery blokes out on the pull and equivalent gaggles of girls trying to avoid them.

Edinburgh might want Moulin Rouge but it could be getting the Bigg Market.

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.