Edinburgh tramworks will ruin Christmas, shops fear
retailers in Edinburgh have been promised that tramworks on Princes Street will be brought to a halt at the end of this month – but are warning of major problems on the horizon, over Christmas.
Business chiefs say they have been dealt a major blow when they should have been celebrated the return of buses and taxis to the city’s main thoroughfare on 30 June, which the council has just confirmed.
Instead, they are furious after being warned that work which will close off St Andrew Square and York Place over the autumn and winter is unlikely to be brought to a halt over Christmas and New Year.
It is also unclear when major tramworks at the east end of Princes Street, outside the Balmoral Hotel, will be finished.
Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, last night said she was aware of concerns and had asked officials to set up meetings to try to allay retailers’ fears.
The Scotsman has learned that Edinburgh council is facing a growing rebellion from shops around both ends of Princes Street over the level of ongoing disruption from tramworks and a lack of clarity over the future timetable. It is understood work on and around St Andrew Square may continue until January, while York Place is likely to closed from the autumn until the spring.
The council insists there has been no change to the previously-agreed programme, which made clear that work would not be brought to a halt during the Christmas trading period.
This year would be the first time that tramworks have been allowed in the city centre in the crucial shopping period from late-November until after the Hogmanay celebrations.
Sue Bruce, the council’s chief executive, has been urged to intervene to address concerns from retailers over “substantial and badly-timed disruption” in the east end of the city.
Business groups had been preparing to celebrate the finishing of tramworks on Princes Street around a month early.
The move means the city can stage a major carnival on Princes Street to herald the start of its summer festivals and guarantees George Street will be able to close to traffic to accommodate a major Fringe venue.
However, Andy Neal, chief executive of the business group Essential Edinburgh, said: “There are a lot of concerns about the level of work planned for later in the year, and a lack of clarity about exactly what the council is planning. The month of December is absolutely crucial for many retailers.”
Gordon Henderson, of the Federation of Small Businesses in Edinburgh, said: “We have dozens of members in the east end of the city centre, and if you are talking about St Andrew Square and York Place being closed off over Christmas, it would have a huge impact on them.
“There is a real feeling from businesses that they are not being consulted at all. They are just being presented with plans. People are very angry.”
Ms Hinds said: “We are trying hard to strike the balance between getting the tramworks over as quickly and effectively as possible, and causing the least amount of disruption. I understand the concern from businesses.”
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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