IT has taken the firm behind one of the world's biggest British Army bases to help design, and now the latest blueprint for one of Scotland's most famous boutique streets is reaching the final stages of consultation.

The City of Edinburgh Council's revamp of George Street the New Town that includes a reduction of cars, wider pavements, trees but less clutter, seating areas, and cycleways follows a series of plans over the past two decades that included incarnations such as a particularly unloved rising bollards restriction and street gazebos that struggled to maintain an anchor in the Scottish gusts, even with diners inside.

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Consultancy WYG, which won the civilian engineering support team contract to back up the Royal Engineers in construction, management and maintaining the infrastructure throughout Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, the massive former airbase now known as Camp Shorabak, was appointed to draw up a new permanent plan for the area surrounding the grand centrepiece providing cafe culture and better shopping and lifestyle experience.

So far, the plan has received a cautious welcome from the representatives of business groups and other organisations on the street that runs parallel to Rose Street and Princes Street.

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Castle Street, Frederick Street and Hanover Street, as well as Charlotte and St Andrew Squares are included in the spruce-up.


William Duncan, chairman of the George Street Association, said its membership, which includes firms, residents and organisations like the Royal Society of Edinburgh, is reserving judgement on whether the plan will operate with military precision.

He said: "Yes, we want it to look good but how operationally is it going to work because people are running businesses, hotels, offices, there is also residential accommodation and they need services, they need access and how that will all integrate into the transport plans is something we really don’t know as yet."

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He added: "My impression is reasonably good so far but holding that position until we know what the operational implications are because it’s not just a street that’s got to look good it’s a street that’s got to work."

He said members will meet in the new year ahead of the consultation closing date, January 25.

This will include "the traders, they are an important group and large in number but you have also got hotels and the Freemasons’ Hall and Northern Lighthouse Board and Royal Society of Edinburgh so it is a broad mix of organisations, not all businesses, but they all have to function out of George Street".

Carina Contini, owner of Contini George Street restaurant, welcomed the proposal to revitalise the avenue, where the firm has had premises for 15 years.

She said: "Clearly, it represents a good opportunity for the restaurant to expand the outside dining offering, which is a significant part of the business during the festivals and throughout the summer months.

"An important factor will be whether there will be licensing provisions that support both permanent businesses and temporary venues."

A matter of yards away, the next street, the pedestrianised Rose Street, is not directly included in the New Town revamp.

Jeweller Alistir Wood Tait, in the street 27 years, said: "The huge complaint I have here in Rose Street is the mono-block surface that was laid in the seventies has been so neglected that it is not fit for purpose.

"I’ve got two empty shops opposite me, one of which has been empty for at least five years and the shop next to me is closing in six months time.

"The council say they don’t have the money to spend but obviously they have money to spend on other projects."

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The council said it has worked closely with individual firms and groups across the city centre.

It said key themes emerging from businesses in the area are a strong desire for a very high quality public realm that reflects the "grandeur of the streets, the need to allow for business servicing, and to cater for a wide range of customer access into the area, including retaining some parking".


Lesley Macinnes, council transport convener, above, said: "Since its inception, our project to develop a long-term vision for George Street and the First New Town has had local businesses at its core - our ambition is ultimately to create a more welcoming, relaxing space for people to stroll, shop and socialise.

"Throughout the design process, from the initial trial to our ongoing consultation, we have engaged closely with businesses, including representative bodies Essential Edinburgh and the George Street Association, taking their needs into account to develop concept designs."

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She added: "More recently, we have written to every business in the area to encourage participation in our consultation on proposals, as well as holding business workshop and stakeholder information events, which have been well represented by the businesses community.

"Responses have demonstrated a strong desire for high quality public realm, which also allows for business servicing and customer access.

"As we move forward with the project, design consultants will be carrying out further, more in-depth work to engage with businesses, including face-to-face, business-focused questionnaires and additional workshop sessions in partnership with Essential Edinburgh, which will help determine business interests, allowing us to understand their operating needs within the emerging design.

"While this project focuses on George Street, Castle Street, Frederick Street and Hanover Street, as well as Charlotte and St Andrew Squares, it is pivotal to the wider City Centre Transformation, which aims to improve the liveability and economic vibrancy of the whole city centre."