MAJOR plans to revamp one of the Capital’s most prominent streets have been broadly welcomed by heritage chiefs and local residents.
George Street would be transformed into a pedestrian-friendly, continental-style thoroughfare geared for outdoor dining and year-round events. There would be wider pavements, reduced parking, cycle lanes in each direction and one lane of general traffic each way.
Councillors will be asked to back the ideas next week, paving the way for final blueprints to be drawn up over the next two years. The £28 million scheme would be completed by the end of 2022.
Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: “We broadly welcome the proposals. The spectacular procession of buildings and monumental sculpture in George Street is without parallel in Europe.
“Reducing the clutter and giving the street back to its users has to be a positive step forward and should enhance everyone’s enjoyment and appreciation of the central axis of James Craig’s First New Town, which celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2017.
“Our only caution would be to ensure that we allow the beauty of the street to speak for itself without unnecessary additions or interventions.”
And Ian Mowat, chair of the New Town and Broughton Community Council, said he was “generally positive” about the proposals.
He said: “We think what is suggested by the design team would be generally good for George Street and would be welcomed, but we think it’s important that vehicular access is retained and parking provision is retained as much as possible.”
Previous partial pedestrianisation schemes in George Street have involved one-way traffic. But Mr Mowat said: “We’re glad to see two-way traffic will be retained and some parking. We’re quite excited about what could improve the look of the street, which has got quite shabby and is due an overhaul.
“The design principles offer a good way forward and we hope the council will push ahead with it.”
But he said the reduction in parking would affect nearby streets. “There were plans to do away with parking in Charlotte Square – they might have to look at that again.”
The multi-storey car park planned for the St James Quarter development has been mentioned as offering an alternative. But Mr Mowat said: “George Street might come on stream before St James – and it is also a bit of a distance.”
He praised the consultation process on the proposals, but said it would be good if they could be implemented earlier than planned.
“George Street has not had the investment because it was being used a lot during the tramworks, but it now needs that investment – and needs it sooner than 2022,” he said. “It needs to be done properly.”