Edinburgh City Council has unveiled plans to enhance the civic grandeur of George Street, one of the Scottish capital’s principal shopping thoroughfares. The scheme, which feeds into a citywide vision for long-term growth, will help Edinburgh to remain a vibrant place to live and visit.
The proposals, developed by LDA Design and WYG on behalf of the Council and sustainable not-for-profit Sustrans, will improve accessibility, prioritising active travel and creating a place to belong.
Over recent years, the car has come to dominate George Street. The new plans will create wider, clutter-free pavements, car-free areas and a dedicated two-direction cycleway, making George Street safer and more enjoyable for all users.
New plazas and welcoming public realm with additional public seating will encourage shoppers and visitors to spend more time on the Street, boosting trade for the retailers, cafés and restaurants lining the boulevard. This vision of a more sociable George Street has been dubbed Las Ramblas of the north.
LDA Design Director and project lead, Kirstin Taylor, commented: “As a ‘Capital Street for a Capital City’, George Street is a significant part of Edinburgh’s history – it is vital that it continues to be at the heart of the city’s growth.
“We want to create an all-year-round destination, an inclusive place where people choose to spend more time. We also want to celebrate George Street’s fine Georgian architecture and make it a more positive environmental experience for people of all ages and abilities.”
Pedestrian campaign group, Living Streets Scotland, has welcomed the new approach. Director, Stuart Hay, said of the scheme: “This project has the potential to see Edinburgh compete with Paris, Dublin, Brussels and other cities pushing ahead with streets designed around people – not polluting vehicles.
“For too long George Street has been a car park and not the grand avenue it was designed to be. More space for people to walk and spend time will unlock its potential as one of the best streets in Scotland.”
Blue badge parking would be prioritised on George Street itself, whilst ‘Pay and Display’ parking would move to connecting streets to reduce vehicular dominance, and enhance views. Other ways to improve air quality in George Street, including the introduction of species- and scale-appropriate trees, are being considered.
The plans have been shaped by extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. Following a series of drop-in sessions, an online survey is now open to test the public’s appetite for change.
Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener at The City of Edinburgh Council said: “The concept design aims to create a world-class space that respects and enhances the World Heritage Site. It seeks to make the First New Town a safer and more vibrant area by opening up central places to more people and enhancing the current setting and position of the street’s statues to make greater feature points of them.”