Edinburgh’s ‘Old Town loop’ car ban to start one day a month

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Roads in the Capital will close to traffic monthly as part of the Open Streets project – which could lead to a regular closure of a loop of the Old Town.

READ MORE: Edinburgh councillors back controversial tram extension plans despite ‘public safety’ fear

Councillors agreed to press ahead with the monthly Open Streets project – while the authority’s preferred strategy for the city centre transformation project will be tabled in May.

Heavy traffic on Gorgie Road during rush hour.

Heavy traffic on Gorgie Road during rush hour.

The council’s transport and environment committee approved plans for streets to be shut to traffic on the first Sunday of the month from May – with an “aspirational loop” of the Old Town, including the Royal Mile, Cowgate and the Grassmarket, to be pushed forward during the 18 month trial.

Details on the first Open Streets events will be provided at the additional transport and environment committee on Tuesday (5) after concerns were raised over “retrospective scrutiny” of the plans by councillors.

A public consultation showed that 88 per cent of people want to see a change in how people move around  the city  – while 51 per cent backed “radical change” through the city centre transformation.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson, Cllr Gillian Gloyer, said that Cowgate and Lothian Road are “absolutely disastrous for pedestrians”.

She added: “Would it be possible to come back with the detail of those plans in May before we implement it? There are still some concerns we need to iron out a bit.”

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “We have been given a very strong steer in the results in the consultation.

“I think we have done a great deal to get to this stage. For Tuesday, we will bring back a detailed report that hopefully will note the concerns.”

Conservative councillors tabled an amendment, calling for more information before the Open Streets project begins in May and to ensure residents’ fears were allayed.

Tory city centre Cllr Joanna Mowat, said: “I have had some emails from residents expressing concerns, not necessarily in opposition to the idea, but how can the buses work and can we get to church? I cannot answer their questions.

“This is a really liveable city, it’s one of the best in the world. We are in grave danger of talking this city down. Our duty is to keep that magic in case we destroy what we already have.”

Project director Daisy Narayanan told councillors that three options for Open Streets were considered including “large swathes of the city centre” in both the Old Town and New Town – while an option including Princes Street was also discounted.

The council’s director of place, Paul Lawrence, said some parts of the city centre can be “very horrid and difficult places” for businesses and that Princes Street is “going to continue to undergo fundamental change”. Mr Lawrence added that the council has to provide the “best possible environment for traders to operate in”.

Green transport spokesperson, Cllr Chas Booth, said: “Our city is an amazing place to live, work and study, but we have several hundred air pollution deaths every year.

“The level of ambition is right. If we wait until we answer every single question about Open Streets, we will never get it done. It won’t be possible to address every single concern but fundamentally what’s needed is leadership.”

Councillors backed the Open Street project starting in May and will discuss detailed plans for the city centre transformation later in the spring.

SNP Cllr Ellie Bird, said: “I think it’s radical and we can be as radical as we want in this. That’s what’s so exciting about it.

“This is very inclusion-based. I think it’s fundamentally important that we take communities with us.”