Green light for £314m overhaul of Edinburgh centre

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image copyrightCity of Edinburgh Council
image captionGeorge IV Bridge will have cycle lanes and more space for pedestrians

Ten-year plans to transform the centre of Edinburgh in a £314m project have been approved by councillors.

The City Centre Transformation Plan was passed at last week's transport and environment committee, but was referred to Thursday's full council meeting for final approval.

The overhaul will give priority to pedestrians and cyclists and see many key streets closed to traffic.

Environmental campaigners have welcomed the plans.

They include ambitious cycling infrastructure projects, a trial of a city "hopper" bus and car-free streets in the Old Town.

Tree-lined boulevard

As part of the strategy, Cockburn Street, Forrest Road, Victoria Street, Waverley Bridge and Lawnmarket will close to traffic - while Bank Street will be shut except for buses and taxis and Candlemaker Row will only be open to buses.

The High Street is also set to be closed to traffic between North Bridge and St Mary's Street.

The strategy also includes "reallocation of traffic lanes" on a number of streets including Cowgate, the Bridges corridor, Lothian Road, St Andrew Square and Princes Street.

image copyrightCity of Edinburgh Council
image captionForrest Road will close to traffic completely

Phase one of the project will take place over the next five years, including the closure of Waverley Bridge in conjunction with Network Rail's Waverley Masterplan.

However, more than £300m will need to be found for the final phase of the strategy, which includes creating a tree-lined boulevard on Lothian Road, integrated public transport ticketing and timetabling and a new cycling and walking bridge linking the Old Town and New Town.

Gavin Thomson, Friends of the Earth Scotland's air pollution campaigner, said: "It is fitting this plan was passed the day before the Global Climate Strike, as all of Scotland's cities need to begin taking ambitious, forward-thinking steps to change the way we move around.

"Climate emissions from road transport in Scotland are at the same level now as they were in 1990, as councils and governments have shirked the necessary decisions.

"Let's hope this City Centre Transformation Plan marks a change in how seriously our councils take the need to change the ways we get around our cities".

Earlier this year, three Edinburgh streets were named among the most polluted in Scotland - St John's Road, Nicolson Street and Queensferry Road broke legal limits for Nitrogen Dioxide pollution.

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