TRADERS have savaged proposals to remove at least half of the parking bays from George Street under an ambitious revamp of the city centre.
Planners have confirmed for the first time they are considering removing 140 bays from the centre of George Street to be replaced by bus lay-bys and loading zones.
Transport chiefs say they will aim to mitigate the loss by creating the same number of spaces elsewhere in the city centre.
Although the idea of creating spaces on Hanover Street and Frederick Street is being explored, it is not clear how close to George Street most of the new spaces will be.
George Street businesses fear that losing spaces on their doorstep will hit trade hard.
Transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “This is still very much a work in progress and talks will need to be held with Lothian Buses and other service operators about the positioning and provision of bus stops. However, if the proposals go ahead, the basic principle is to ensure there are the same number of parking spaces within the city centre area. At the moment we would be looking to provide those on surrounding streets leading off George Street.”
The council had previously said any loss of parking spaces on George Street would be kept to a bare minimum.
George Street Association chairman Josh Miller said removing swathes of parking for one of Edinburgh’s “destination” streets would be a disaster.
He said: “I don’t think removing parking spaces will be successful for George Street, or the people of Edinburgh. If they do so they will need to look seriously at providing an alternative, which has to be underground car parking provision.”
Ruth McKay, Edinburgh chairwoman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The message from the businesses was that the council needs to accept that shoppers, customers and people want to travel by car. What seems to have been presented in the consultation is a series of short-term temporary measures.”
We revealed how ambitious plans to create a cavernous 1000-space underground car park below George Street were refloated by Essential Edinburgh in February.
Chief executive Andy Neal said he was even more convinced that underground parking was a good, affordable idea given the surprise extent of the proposed George Street revamp.
Cllr Hinds, however, has said a one-way traffic loop, incorporating Princes Street, will make George Street better for shoppers and cyclists.
All traffic would be banned from the north side of Princes Street and George Street to create the one-way system.
Public consultation on the city centre vision closes on May 9.
A dedicated two-way cycle lane and widened footpaths on the northern side of George Street are part of the strip’s planned redesign.
Cycling group lends its support to street revamp
THE proposed overhaul of George Street has been backed by the Capital’s cycling groups. Ian Maxwell, chairman of cycle campaign group Spokes, said the removal of parking bays was needed to free up enough space for the proposed traffic changes.
He said: “We think the clearing of space on both Princes Street and George Street will make a really good contribution to the overall atmosphere of the city centre for pedestrians and tourists, as well as cyclists. George Street at the moment is tricky, partly because of the central parking, because of people cruising along looking for parking spaces and also reversing out of car parks.”