Edinburgh has an ambitious agenda for change, for a healthier, thriving, fairer and compact capital city with a higher quality of life for all residents.
The George Street and First New Town Public Realm Improvements Project reflects this bigger vision for the city. It has been developed over a number of years, with extensive consultation, and in response to a range of key city plans including:
- City Centre Transformation: an ambitious 10-year strategy and delivery plan that seeks to provide a people-focused city centre, which is a desirable place to live, work and visit.
- City Plan 2030: the new Local Development Plan for Edinburgh which will set out policies and proposals for development in Edinburgh between 2020 and 2030.
- City Mobility Plan2021-2030: a ten-year strategy that sets out proposals to transform the way people, goods and services travel around the city.
- the Active Travel Action Plan: how we are going to encourage more people to travel on foot and by bike more often.
- Public and Accessible Transport Action Plan: what we will do in relation to public transport infrastructure, information and integration.
- Bus Network Review
In response to these ambitious plans, the city is developing several key projects, including:
- Low Emission Zone (LEZ), which will examine proposals for a low vehicle emissions zone within the city centre.
- Trams to Newhaven, an extension of the Tram network
- Active Travel Routes which include:
Watch the film about our vision behind George Street in 2025 and the animation of how it could look.
Consultation and collaboration
The proposed plan for George Street follows several years of development and engagement to refine design objectives with residents, businesses and stakeholders, including community councils and heritage, business, walking, cycling and accessibility groups. Read about previous consultations and what they told us.
During February and March 2021, further engagement took place with key groups, which informed the final concept design proposals approved by the Transport and Environment Committee in August 2021.
From March to June 2022 we will be talking to residents and businesses in George Street and the First New Town to help us prepare the final operational plan. This focuses on what travel will look like on George Street and look at other key aspects such as blue badge parking and deliveries.
If you live or work within the George Street and First New Town area, please take part in our survey about the operational plan proposals.
Improvements are being delivered as part of a coordinated package of projects under Edinburgh City Centre Transformation. This includes the forthcoming Meadows to George Street and City Centre West East Link schemes, which will transform walking, wheeling and cycling routes and connections across the city centre.
1998 “Public Spaces, Public Life” published
2011 “Public Spaces, Public Life” refreshed
2013 The Council approves “Building a Vision for the City Centre”
2014-2015 New layout and operating arrangements trialed on George Street
2016-2017 Consultation on initial design concepts for George Street
Oct 2017 study area widened to include First New Town streets
2018-2019 Concept design development – ongoing stakeholder and public consultation
Oct 2020 - Feb 2021 Stakeholder engagement to inform final concept designs
Feb -Mar 2021 Public information material issued for final concept designs
March 2021 Local business and resident engagement
April 2021 Council and Sustrans committees
August 2021 Council Transport and Environment Committee
September 2021 Detailed design commences
2022 Traffic Regulation Order and statutory consultation
2024 Construction starts
2026/27 Construction complete
2027 New operational measures implemented
During 2022, designs will progress to the detailed stage with ongoing input from stakeholder groups. Spring to summer 2022 will also see specific engagement on the proposed operational plan with final detailed proposals being reported to the Transport and Environment Committee later in the year. Statutory Traffic Regulation Orders will also be published.
Covid-19 impact and recovery
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on our city centre where businesses have been hard hit and footfall has significantly fallen.
While it remains difficult to predict the medium to longer term impacts of the pandemic, there is an opportunity to re-energise George Street and the First New Town and support the city’s economic recovery.
Among the issues highlighted by the pandemic are the need for well-designed public realm and active travel routes that people can safely use for exercise and recreation. The project will deliver radically improved facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, creating a resilient, flexible city centre.
As the economy returns to growth, the project will support the recovery of Edinburgh city centre, complementing major developments in the area such as the St James Quarter, the Johnnie Walker visitor attraction and the Dunard Centre.
The project will also create a significant number of construction jobs from 2024 onwards, in turn creating opportunities for suppliers and for local businesses who will benefit from custom from people working on the project. As with all major Council construction contracts, there will be community benefits such as apprenticeships and training opportunities.
Supporting businesses and residents through construction
We’re planning for a two-year construction programme starting spring 2024 (subject to statutory processes). We will draw on lessons learned from other similar infrastructure projects to minimise disruption during what we recognise will be a challenging period. We will continue to work with businesses and residents as we plan for construction making sure we take your views into account in the final construction management plan.
The project has a total capital cost of £32million with £20million of this investment coming from Transport Scotland.
It is one of most significant walking, wheeling and cycling projects in Scotland, receiving the highest level of funding through the Sustrans-led Places for Everyone (formerly Community Links Plus) fund.
Funds were initially awarded in in a multi-year agreement in 2019, allowing for the development of detailed and technical designs and progress to construction.
Funding for the project is ‘ring fenced’ and provided through Scottish Government specifically to construct ambitious projects which make it easier for everyone to travel actively.