The work in Brighton Place will see the road closed for more than a year and four major bus routes diverted, prompting warnings that local businesses will lose trade and could be forced to close.
Councillors agreed in 2016 to remove the setts in Brighton Place and resurface the road in asphalt after a survey by Portobello community council found 57 per cent of locals backed that option.
But in March this year the decision was reversed and it was agreed to reconstruct the setts.
Former community council member Bob Jefferson said Brighton Place was used by buses and HGVs and there had been problems with setts after previous repairs.
He said: “We live in a conservation area, the buildings in Brighton Place are beautiful and the setts enhance that. But we just don’t feel it’s an appropriate surface for the 21st century – we don’t want to live in a theme park. The money could be better spent. It has been estimated it costs £53 to mend a pothole so it could mend a lot of potholes.
“Why give us something we don’t want which costs all that money, will take 13 months to put in place and which is probably not going to last?”
Stephen McIntyre, of Porty Exchange, who has operated in Portobello High Street for 37 years, said trading in the area was not easy and many businesses were in a precarious position.
“If some of them lose 10-15 per cent of their trade for a few months it can be enough to push them out of business. Anything that makes it more difficult for people to get here is not good.”
In an open letter addressed to the area’s four councillors, local resident and former Labour councillor Jimmy Burnett higlighted the costs quoted in 2016 of £1.2m for setts and £400,000 for asphalt, but a figure of £700,000 given at a recent public meeting. He urged a delay in the relaying of Brighton Place until a report established the current costs of the two options and the condition of other roads in the ward.
SNP councillor Kate Campbell said: “It’s really difficult and I can see both sides. We did a city-wide consultation and agreed to retain setts in conservation areas. I don’t see why we would treat Portobello differently from other conservation areas.
“Setts do cost more but they should last a lot longer.”
A council spokeswoman said: “Throughout the reinstatement process we will work closely with residents and local businesses to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum and that access is maintained.”
She added the setts were designed to withstand all forms of transport, including HGVs.
The council said resurfacing in asphalt could take up to 20 weeks compared with 62 weeks to relay the setts.