Edinburgh's George Street at risk from 'cultural vandalism' in redesign, claims councillor

Call to preserve symmetrical style of New Town

Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 6:00 am
An artist's impression of how George Street could look
An artist's impression of how George Street could look

CONTROVERSIAL plans to shake up city-centre travel could lead council chiefs to commit “cultural vandalism” it has been claimed.

Tory councillor Joanna Mowat objected to the proposal in the current scheme for revamping traffic flow in George Street to have a two-way segregated cycleway on one side of the street because it flew in the face of the symmetrical design of the New Town.

She said: “George Street is probably one of the finest set pieces of urban architecture in the world.

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“I would ask, even at this stage, we solicit a design that has cycle lanes running on both sides of the street to preserve the symmetry.

“No-one has any issues about George Street being improved, we are beyond the point where people are arguing about the parking.”

But she said the issue of where the cycle lanes went was important and an issue on which people had strong opinions.

“We are at risk of cultural vandalism,” said Cllr Mowat, who represents City Centre ward. “We risk real reputational damage.”

The George Street plans were being considered at the council’s leadership advisory panel, a cross-party body set up to make urgent decisions during the corona crisis.

Senior transport manager Ewan Kennedy said the design for George Street took into account how the cycle lanes linked up with other parts of the city-centre traffic revamp, but the council had not taken any final decision on a preferred layout.

Tories had objected to the decision to bring the report on George Street and a related one on proposals for The Mound and Market Street to the panel, claiming there was no urgency about them and accusing the SNP-Labour administration of trying to “sneak through” controversial changes to the city centre.

But council leader Adam McVey defended the move, saying both projects involved funding from transport body Sustrans which would run out if deadlines were not met.

He said: “There is a danger here of completely arbitrarily losing six months of progress.

“We do have the capacity in our design team to make progress on this in the coming months and it seems sensible to put that talent and resources into the further development of this.”

Under the proposals, Bank Street - the stretch of road linking The Mound to the Royal Mile would be restricted to buses, taxis and cycles, leading to what the Conservatives have claimed is an effective ban on cars using The Mound since it would no longer be a north-south through route.

Forrest Road would be pedestrianised and Candlemaker Row restricted to local bus services and business loading.

And the proposals - part of the £16 million Meadows to George Street project - would see Market Street closed to through car traffic, with only buses and taxis allowed, as well as cars dropping off people at Waverley station.