Draft public realm designs unveiled for Edinburgh’s George Street and New Town

Plaza areas, people-friendly spaces and a dedicated cycleway are among potential new features for Edinburgh’s George Street and New Town public realm design project.

WYG Environment Planning Transport Ltd and urban design experts LDA Design were commissioned by the City of Edinburgh Council to develop a draft concept design for the area as a key element within its wider City Centre Transformation project,. 

Draft public realm designs unveiled for Edinburgh’s George Street and New Town

The George Street and New Town (GNT) project aims to design a vibrant street environment that is safe for all users – one which significantly enhances its use for pedestrians while prioritising active travel and accessibility.

The draft design has been produced following extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including community and specialist interest groups, went on show at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre for the first time today.

Other key elements of the draft concept design, which has been developed in line with the design principles for George Street, are: 

  • Creating a welcoming public realm on par with other great global cities by improving accessibility, pedestrian experience and providing interest for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Creating spaces where people can sit, rest, relax and linger comfortably in the street, with significantly more outdoor seating available.
  • Creating plazas – areas that reinforce views of key buildings, provide attractive spaces within the street and support events of an appropriate scale without impacting pedestrian and cycle routes.
  • Increasing the width of pedestrian areas to enhance the pedestrian experience, accessibility and movement flow.
  • Creating dedicated and segregated space for cycling in two directions on George Street.
  • Eliminating existing street clutter which detracts from the heritage and buildings and also impedes pedestrian movement, presenting a particular obstacle for people with visual and mobility impairments and those with prams.
  • Improving the pedestrian experience at road junctions by extending the footway space available and narrowing vehicle carriageways.
  • Enhancing the visual settings of the statues on George Street by removing street clutter and providing more pedestrian space to ensure the statues can be better appreciated.
  • Introducing greenery to improve the environmental qualities and the comfort of the street, including some carefully placed smaller native trees and some lower level Georgian plants, to resonate with the street’s heritage. 
  • Reducing the current impact of vehicles by removing the central median parking which detracts from the character and heritage of the street. 
  • Prioritising blue badge parking on George Street, with resident and pay and display parking in side streets. 
  • Creating dedicated delivery and servicing areas.
  • Considering the restriction of vehicle access to core services and access hours to key times of day to reduce vehicle dominance while still allowing the function of businesses.
  • Adopting a holistic design approach which considers the design’s impact on the wider city centre.

Lesley Macinnes, transport and environment convener at the City of Edinburgh Council, which is driving forward the project with support from Sustrans, said: “The GNT project is widely recognised as a crucial catalyst to re-invigorating George Street and adjoining New Town streets for the present day but is also fundamental to ensuring the area can easily adapt in the future as the city of Edinburgh continues to evolve.

“The concept design aims to create a world-class space that respects and enhances the World Heritage Site. It seeks to make the First New Town a safer and more vibrant area by opening up central places to more people and enhancing the current setting and position of the street’s statues to make greater feature points of them. 

“The concept has been shaped through ongoing stakeholder consultation and listening to a wide range of views and aspirations.

“The drop-in sessions will now help gauge the appetite for a range of a proposals, amongst which are the potential introduction of greening, trees and new seating areas to the street, in addition to the creation of a segregated cycle lane and much enhanced pedestrian space.”

An online survey about the concept design will be available from today until January 25, 2019.

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