Edinburgh businesses claim there is 'little support' for George Street pedestrianisation as council insists it could shut to all traffic

Senior councillors said that George Street will be pedestrianised as part of the City Mobility Plan, but this has been rebutted by businesses.

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th January 2020, 6:17 pm
An artist's impression of how George Street could look

George Street's future as a fully pedestrianised road has "little support" from businesses in the area, business improvement district Essential Edinburgh has said.

Confusion over planned future access to the street developed after senior councillors and officials said the street is likely to be fully pedestrianised as part of Edinburgh City Council's transport strategy for the next decade.

Reaction to the City Mobility Plan, approved by councillors today (Thursday), saw senior councillors including transport convener Lesley Macinnes and depute leader Cammy Day stating George Street was a prime candidate for pedestrianisation.

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'Little support from the business community'

However, in a statement on their website, Essential Edinburgh poured water on the idea and claimed the £20m redevelopment plan announced last year was as far as they understood the plans would go.

Those plans include the construction of cycleways and the removal of private traffic, but retain buses.Essential Edinburgh said: "Over the last couple of years there has been much discussion and debate on a re-design. This has led to a position where we are at an agreed design with just a few details left to decide.

Directly contradicting senior councillors, the business group said full pedestrianisation was not a "priority moving forward".

It added: "The design of the street has been purposely completed to allow more active travel to and along George Street, but also catering for the need for servicing the businesses and for those who do want the ability to be dropped off by car on the street.

"There is little support from the business community for a fully pedestrianised George Street."

'Further consultation will be carried out'

The council have said the bus strategy review, which could see the end of buses travelling down George Street and Princes Street, could lead to full pedestrianisation.

It is understood the design of the George Street redevelopment is flexible for allow for full pedestrianisation without significant re-engineering.

Transport convener Cllr Macinnes also promised further consultation with businesses and said: “George Street and the First New Town is a key project being delivered under City Centre Transformation and the City Mobility Plan and aims to deliver a vibrant, people-friendly environment prioritising active travel.

“The project is currently in the design development stage, and will now be further shaped by the ideas set out in the City Mobility Plan.

“The plan sets out the need for a comprehensive review of the bus network and this in turn provides an opportunity to explore a fuller approach to the pedestrianisation of key streets in the city centre, including George Street.

“As the scheme develops, further consultation with businesses and residents will be carried out.”

'It simply won't work if we stay the same'

Speaking exclusively to The Edinburgh Briefing podcast, transport and environment convener Lesley Macinnes added that retaining the status quo was "simply not going to work".

She said: "If we carry on as we are and with the status quo of how people and goods move around the city, we are simply going to see increased congestion, increased air pollution issues and a continuing decrease in the quality of life for people in terms of how they live in this city.

"It is simply not going to work as a city and we would be storing up problems for ourselves."