Plans to take down barriers in bid to improve Princes St

THE railings around Princes Street Gardens could be removed in the latest attempt to improve the look of Edinburgh's main shopping street.

City leaders are working with design experts on ways of making the street more attractive to shoppers and visitors.

Edinburgh is one of the only cities in Europe that has a one-sided main shopping street, and it is thought this could be capitalised on by removing the railings and opening up the gardens.

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A team of regeneration specialists has also been asked to look at how the leisure experience on offer at Princes Street Gardens can be improved, with one option likely to be taking more advantage of the Ross Bandstand, which is currently up for sale as a development opportunity.

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city's economic development leader, said: "We will be asking our zone managers to look at Princes Street Gardens and how we can have more of a leisure experience there, turning into the retail experience across the road.

"We have architects looking at whether we can break down the barriers between Princes Street and the gardens.

Design gurus Gehl Architects are looking at whether taking down the fences and allowing Princes Street and the gardens to come together more naturally could help improve the street.

The company, which has been credited with turning Copenhagen's city centre into one of the world's most pedestrian-friendly cities, is looking at the option as part of a wider piece of research on improvements to the city centre, which it says is currently "unsafe" at night and "unfriendly" during the day.

Last week, the Evening News revealed how a report from Gehl had branded the street as one "big bus station".

However, plans to take away the railings have not won support from business leaders, who say it would be a massive landscaping task to create a safe decline on to the gardens.

Ron Hewitt, chief executive of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: "Princes Street Gardens is a wonderful facility and anything to better integrate it is good. But there is nothing in what has been said that excites me and we really need to go beyond that.

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"If there is a practical suggestion on how to improve Princes Street Gardens then that is useful but taking away the railings - which are important for historical and also safety reasons - does not appear to be the answer."