BUSINESSES in Leith are facing almost 18 months of further disruption because of the city’s tram project - despite being dropped from the project for at least five years.
Completing unfinished underground works on two key thoroughfares and restoring them to their previous state is expected to continue until December 2013, council leaders revealed yesterday.
The cost of bringing Leith Walk and Constitution Street up to scratch has also soared from £3.2m to £5.5m in the space of just a few months, following extensive talks with businesses and local residents.
However, as well as restoring road and pavement surfaces, the council has pledged to carry out a number of “environmental improvements” on the two streets, where tramworks got underway four years ago.
Although details are still to be thrashed out, options include dedicated lanes for cyclists, new trees and flower-beds, additional works of art and new landscaping features.
However businesses and residents are being warned that these will need to fit in with longer-term plans to extend the tram to Leith.
The plans have emerged just weeks after a major summit to transform the future of Leith Walk was held. The council has previously declared ambitions to see it become Edinburgh’s answer to Las Ramblas in Barcelona.
The council had previously pledged to restore Leith Walk and Constitution Street to how they were before the tramworks got underway.
However the budget has been increased in a bid to help revitalise the area, which suffered huge disruption from tramworks, only for councillors to vote last year in favour of halting the first phase of the project at York Place.
Transport leader Lesley Hinds said: “This is the kind of boost that this important route needs and a vital investment in the area’s future.
“We will continue to meet with members of the local community to make sure that our plans meet with their expectations and we will work with them to reduce disruption as far as possible.”
Businesses are fearful of the impact of another extended bout of roadworks on the two thoroughfares and claim the work to improve Leith Walk is being done “on the cheap” because council officials hope a tram extension can be delivered in the near future.
Alan Rudland, owner of Arkay Imaging, on Leith Walk, said: “Much of the work is simply trying to get Leith Walk back to what it was like four years ago.
“But at the moment there are only vague suggestions of what the further improvements might be and the council has failed to carry out any proper consultation. My concern is that there just isn’t the money available to make real impovements.”