Survey respondents drawn to George Street designs

A computer generated image showing George Street looking west, once all the changes are in place

Bold plans for the transformation of Edinburgh’s historic George Street would encourage more people to visit the area, according to a public survey.

More than 650 people responded to the survey on final proposed concept designs for the George Street and First New Town Public Realm Improvements Project, which were unveiled in February. These include significantly widened pavements, landscaped spaces for play and relaxation and a cycling thoroughfare, where motor traffic is largely removed, to create a people-friendly setting.  
Two thirds (66%) of respondents said they would be more likely to return to the street as a result of the improvements, with shopping, window shopping and socialising in bars and restaurants amongst the top reasons for spending time there.
When asked about modes of travel, only 13% said they would drive to the New Town in future, with 67% saying they’d walk, 44% would cycle and 58% opting for the bus. Participants also suggested how they would like to see the redesigned street's open spaces to be animated – preferences included public art, community events and small markets. 
Councillor Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener, said:

These concept designs for George Street build on years of engagement with local people, businesses and active travel and mobility organisations, so I’m delighted with the positive response we’ve had from these very groups, along with the general public.
Our vision for this street is a relaxed, open and accessible space, where people want to spend time, visit local shops, restaurants and cafes and enjoy the unique historic setting. Feedback so far has demonstrated that our plans will encourage people to do just that, as well as choosing to travel there by foot, bike or public transport.

Councillor Karen Doran, Transport and Environment Vice Convener, said:

It was really exciting to see plans for this iconic part of the city brought to life earlier this year, and I know lots of people enjoyed watching the animated videos and imagining how they could enjoy the street in future. Now, thanks to feedback gathered over recent months we’ll be able to refine designs before moving forward with the project and delivering the many benefits it will bring.

Concept designs for George Street result from several years of development and engagement to refine design objectives with the public and stakeholders, including community councils and heritage, business, walking, cycling and accessibility groups. 
In February and March further engagement involved key groups, while the public were invited to see the designs for themselves and tell us how they might enjoy a revitalised George Street through the online survey and interactive virtual events. Feedback from organisations like Living Streets, Edinburgh Access Panel, Spokes, Edinburgh World Heritage and New Town and Broughton Community Council has been broadly supportive of proposals, while the majority of residents and businesses told us they found engagement sessions useful. 
Issues raised during the engagement period, which will require further exploration as the project progresses, include the scale of greening/planting on the street, servicing hours for businesses and taxi access in the evenings. 
Feedback gathered will inform a final iteration of the design proposal before being brought to Transport and Environment Committee in June. The required statutory processes under which the scheme will be constructed would begin this autumn.
A report summarising the results of engagement was considered by Transport and Environment Committee as part of its Business Bulletin on Thursday, 22 April. Find out more about the George Street and First New Town Public Realm Improvements Project online.

Published: April 22nd 2021