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Brand new diversion for capital as street is closed off

THEY have endured roadworks and diversions for seven years amid the troubled reintroduction of trams to Scotland's capital.

PLAN: George Street at centre of a "cafe society" trial in Edinburgh.
PLAN: George Street at centre of a "cafe society" trial in Edinburgh.

Now Edinburgh residents are bracing themselves for a year-long lockdown in one of the city's busiest streets, which it is feared will create more traffic misery.

Under a so-called "cafe society" trial, George Street, parallel to Princes Street, is to be closed on one side to create a pedestrian area and a two-way cycle lane with traffic confined to the south side and running one way.

The south side will have also have one of its two traffic lanes pedestrianised for half its length.

The final consultation is to be launched next Monday and the council is currently holding roadshows with community groups to explain its plans.

However, as full details of the plans are emerging for the first time ahead of the three-week consultation, some residents and business owners have expressed concern about their impact.

A spokesman for the Heriot Row East Association said the area had "coped with serious traffic problems generated by tramworks in the city centre", but added: "Future changes in the New Town traffic flows and parking arrangements also ... have the potential to impact on our area."

The Federation of Small Businesses questioned the plan. A spokesman said: "We wondered what evidence existed to support the cafe culture and the demand for such a feature in the city centre? We also wondered what consideration has been given to the future of the high street and the impact of online shopping?"

Tony Troy, of the George Street Hotel, said restricting road access would be detrimental for guests.

The 12-month trial comes amid claims that street shutdowns during summer and winter festivals were popular with visitors.

But some residents fear the cost of cafe culture will be more traffic on the cobbled avenues, terraces and lanes of the New Town.

The plans include closing George Street to westbound traffic on the north side between Frederick Street and Charlotte Square. One lane on the north side will be pedestrianised. The second, more central, lane will form a two-way cycle lane.

Traffic will continue to flow on both lanes on the south side of George Street between Frederick Street and Charlotte Square. One lane on the south side of the street between Frederick Street and St Andrew Square will be pedestrianised. Slanted parking bays will be created in the middle of the thoroughfare.

Edinburgh City Council's director of services for communities, Mark Turley, said: "Other successful European and US cities demonstrate the success of pedestrian priority in city centres.

"Closer to home, examples of some of the most successful city centres, with higher positions in the retail rankings, can be found in cities with pedestrianised retail cores. These include Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

"In Scotland, Glasgow, with the draw of Buchanan Street and the Merchant City, is often cited as a more enjoyable experience."

A spokesman for the Great King Street Association said: "Our residents' association is wholly supportive of the council's intentions to keep the city centre vibrant and to develop the amenities within the Princes-George Street area to their full potential.

"However, we feel vehicular traffic plays a key part in this development and traffic planning has to ensure access to both Princes Street and George Street is retained."

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