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), 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 animation about the proposals for George Street.
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.
We will deliver improvements 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.
Recent consultation and engagement
February and March 2021
Engagement with key groups, which informed the final concept design proposals approved by the Transport and Environment Committee in August 2021.
October to June 2022
Continued engagement with key stakeholder groups including Spokes, Living Streets, Edinburgh Action Panel, Essential Edinburgh, Edinburgh World Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland, New Town and Broughton Community Council and George Street Association to develop final Stage 3 design proposals.
March to June 2022
Engagement with residents and businesses in George Street and the First New Town to help us prepare the an updated operational plan. This focussed on what travel will look like on George Street and other key aspects such as blue badge parking and deliveries.
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
3 Nov 2022 Council Transport and Environment Committee Stage 3 Design proposals.
2022/2023 Stage 4 - Technical design, including advertisement of all statutory notices and appointment of a preferred contractor.
2024 Construction starts
2026/27 Construction complete
2027 New operational measures implemented
Subject to approval of the Stage 3 design proposals by the Council’s Transport and Environment Committee the next key steps include reappointment of the project consultancy team, led by Faithful + Gould, to deliver the next stage of the project, Stage 4 Technical Design, of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Plan of Work.
Keys outputs during this stage will include a final Operation Plan, advertisement of all statutory notices including road orders and preparation of final technical drawings to enable works to commence on site in 2024.
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.
The project has a total estimated capital cost of £36million with investment secured from Transport Scotland via Sustrans Places for Everyone programme.
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.