Helen Martin: The tumbleweed fate that awaits George Street

THE artist's impressions issued last week for a car-free George Street were, to say the least, extremely basic. Obviously, such drawings aren't intended to look like real life.

Monday, 12th November 2018, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 12th November 2018, 12:50 pm
The artists impression of George Street gives the appearance of a vacant, empty thoroughfare
The artists impression of George Street gives the appearance of a vacant, empty thoroughfare

The pedestrians are very few, random little grey blobs. The buildings are neutral beige boxes – no evidence of shops, pavements are huge and just a few cars, possibly blue-badged, are dotted in a line between flower beds and benches.

It appears as an empty, vacant street – which it could eventually become. It’s a reasonable assumption that without parking, retail and hospitality in George Street could reduce, but on the plus side, perhaps local suburban high streets could boom again as a result.

The council wants people’s feedback on the plans, so here we go.

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Pedestrianisation is not a bad thing, especially for streets with beautiful architecture and good shopping, eating and drinking venues. But so far, we haven’t managed to create a Star Trek “beamer”. For some people, public transport into the city takes too long and having to carry several purchases around isn’t easy. So, reaching George Street and struggling home with multiple or heavy bags, will become more difficult.

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Edinburgh's '˜world class' masterplan to create car-free George Street

For many other cities, such plans work well. Glasgow for instance has pedestrianised Buchanan Street and much of Sauchiehall Street. However, even City Parking (the main but not the only parking provider), offers 5388 spaces in its seven multi-storey and barrier car parks in the city centre. Glasgow also has its underground and suburban railway system.

So, the plan to turn the New Town into “enhanced pedestrian space plazas” where folk can happily amble, looking at statues while breathing in clean air?

Yes, that sounds wonderful – if everyone had the free time between working long hours, collecting kids from school, food shopping, doing housework, home maintenance, gardening and everything else in this time-poor world. Already it’s tough finding time to keep up with friends and family other than by Facebook, texts and e-mails.

If cars are banned from the New Town and restricted in other parts of the city, cafes, restaurants, gift shops and fashion boutiques in suburbs are nearer home and quicker to use. Along with the internet, where does that leave city centre shops?

As we all know, the older population is increasing. Not all over-70s are disabled and have blue badges. But while being generally fit, age can bring arthritis, perhaps rheumatism, old injuries causing stiffness, aches and pains and less energy. While content to use buses and trams, they can’t all cope with a city based on walking or cycling. Yet they are the ones most likely to prefer shops to online retail and, according to current post-recession opinion, they have acquired from the past more money to spend, often on families rather than themselves.

Already, out-of-town shopping centres are more popular because of free parking. Banning cars in the centre will increase that. Introducing out-of-town parking charges too (already under consideration) would be more likely to boost the internet than benefit a car-free city centre.

The crucial key to welcomed pedestrianisation is appropriately placed multi-storey car parks not too far from spacey plazas. For our historic, capital city, that’s an architectural challenge. It may be impossible – but failure could lead to another deadly attack on Edinburgh business and retail.

Price revolution takes no prisoners

MANY shoppers may be bamboozled about the merger of Sainsbury’s and Asda, two supermarket chains at opposite ends of the market.

Sainsbury’s declares both will retain their names, products and pricing, because they have “different” customers. I assume that means different incomes – a sales strategy that won’t last much longer.

While people are encouraged to change utility suppliers and banks to get the best deal, it’s happening much faster with food retail. M&S is closing food stores because of plummeting sales. Waitrose is shutting five stores in a restructure, with experts blaming Aldi and Lidl’s rise in popularity.

Asda could be Sainsbury’s saviour in the changing market so the merger’s a good move. And any shopper who hasn’t even tried Asda or the successful discount stores should give them a go, wake up and smell the coffee. Even the Sunday Times recently issued readers with a £5 Lidl voucher!

It’s crackers to put ourselves through this

BONFIRE night – a nightmare for firefighters - was last Monday, but the fireworks started the previous Friday and boomed till Tuesday. Animals are stressed, pets, farm stock and wildlife die from fear, running wild on to the road or even being tortured by thugs who attach them to “pretty” explosives.

A BBC report confirmed that army veterans and older people are put through PTSD reactions because of “bombing and firing” noises. Some areas around the world only permit silent fireworks.

Several research projects have analysed the pollution of fireworks emitting particulates, dioxins, copper and lead. Even Asthma UK has warned displays can trigger an attack, and Delhi banned fireworks for Diwali because they created a toxic smog.

More restrictions are needed on dates, times and locations. Those responsible for public displays, including councils, should seriously consider the harm they do with cruel and barbaric thunderous performances.

Mary Poppins Version 2.0

WHAT follows the £1500 cot with a built in iPad connection designed by a Birmingham dad making it easier to get his baby daughter to sleep? A robotic nanny instead of human parenting?