All traffic would be banned from one of the Old Town’s busiest streets under plans that have been branded as “horrendous” by motorists.
A new vision for the area between Holyrood and Haymarket includes a controversial proposal to remove general traffic and parking spaces from Chambers Street, directly outside the National Museum of Scotland – one of Scotland’s top tourist attractions.
A traffic shake-up is also proposed for the Royal Mile, with more sections facing possible pedestrianisation and a reduction in the speed limit to 20mph on other stretches of the historic street.
The proposals are part of plans to make the city more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians. It is also hoped that Chambers Street could be used for concerts, markets or exhibitions if traffic is banned.
But the moves have led to fears of traffic chaos across the historic Old Town.
Raymond Davidson, secretary of the Edinburgh Taxi Association, said: “It would be another horrendous carry on, especially with what’s going on now with the trams.
“Where will they put all this traffic, because South Bridge and North Bridge are already jam-packed, so it will be even worse if they close off Chambers Street because it’s an arterial route for George IV Bridge.”
The shake-up was revealed in a masterplan for the city centre’s “southern arc”, which will go out to consultation before being finalised in the new year.
Conservative city centre councillor Joanna Mowat said: “There has always been an aspiration to move parking on Chambers Street but that was to put it underneath, and I can see, from a streetscape point of view, why that was wanted.
“But we have to be careful that we keep a sensible amount of parking there because it is important for the museum and shops in that area.”
Residents on the Royal Mile have previously called for measures that are likely to reduce the amount of traffic, so the proposals to restrict access and reduce speed limits are likely to be supported by them.
However, Maria Pia, 36, who owns Bene’s fish and chip shop on the street, said: “If they go ahead with this we will have to close down – guaranteed. We had to fight against this before about ten years ago – everybody around here complained.
“The Canongate is not a tourist area. We get lots of taxi drivers in here – we would lose all that trade I really hope they don’t do this.”
Other plans include reviewing all one-way systems between Holyrood and Haymarket, attempting to revive proposals to make Haymarket a “major transport interchange”, reducing speed limits on the Cowgate and improving signage.
A council spokesman said: “These projects have been developed with community groups and we now propose to make them more widely available for comment.
“Together, the projects aim to create an environment where walking or cycling is an appealing, convenient and safe experience for everyone using this part of the city centre.”