TRADERS have said they fear business could be lost as Leith Street closed today for ten months for work to push ahead on the St James Centre redevelopment.
Major diversions have now been put in place, with the road shut for motorists in both directions between Calton Road and Waterloo Place.
Developers said the closure – which was timed to begin after the festival – is the only way to safely install £6 million worth of improvements, including new gas and water pipes.
But businesses in the area have said the works – while necessary – will bring months of disruption and could lead to a downturn in trade.
Lorraine Roy, owner of Leith Street bridal store Emma Roy of Edinburgh, said she was concerned about potential disruption.
She said: “Obviously we are worried about the disruption that the road closure could cause.
Obviously we are worried about the disruption the road closure could bringLorraine Roy
“I think there should be rent free periods [or] rate free periods – there should be some form of compensation for all the noise and disruption that we have got to suffer.
“The rebuilding is going ahead and when it’s finished it’s going to be wonderful but in this period it’s important [they] give the businesses support.
“We are open and will not let this disruption spoil our day-to-day running of the business. We’ll carry on as we have done for the past 33 years but obviously it’s not going to be easy.”
Sakine Akar, owner of the neighbouring Barish Coffee Shop, also voiced concern, saying: “I’m worried I can’t put the tables outside because of the dust. I don’t know where I’m going to pack and how I’m going to do my deliveries.”
Transport and environment convener, Lesley Macinnes, said: “Major essential works on Leith Street are required to deliver this hugely important project, which is set to create thousands of jobs and deliver millions of pounds to the local economy in the coming years.
“The council will continue to work very closely with the developer to monitor the impact of this work and to ensure they keep the public properly informed throughout.”
Martin Perry, director at Edinburgh St James, said: “We would like to thank all those who may be impacted by the road closure for their patience and understanding during this ten-month period.
“It is clear this approach will allow us to reconfigure and renew the whole Leith Street corridor in the most efficient way possible, ensuring we prevent prolonged and severely restricted access and enabling us to create a high quality, much-improved environment that will serve the city for years to come.”
The developers said they were not able to comment about possible business support at this time.