Cars could be banned from one of the busiest thoroughfares in Edinburgh as part of radical transformation plans to open up the space for pedestrians, bikes, and outdoor seating areas.
George Street, which lies parallel to Princes Street and runs from St Andrew Square to Charlotte Square, would be largely car-free if the project is given the go-ahead.
The plans say the street will be given a ‘European boulevard feel’ to better accentuate the A-listed buildings that adorn it.
Bus stops will be located at either end of the city centre, and car parking will remain for blue badge holders and for loading access for businesses.
The visualisation also includes widened pavements, landscaped spaces for play and relaxation, and a cycling thoroughfare.
It is intended to begin construction work on the scheme in 2023, with anticipated completion in 2025.
Lesley Macinnes, convener of the council’s transport committee, and SNP councillor for Liberton and Gilmerton, said: “These animated concept designs offer an exciting glimpse into what George Street and the surrounding area could look like in 2025 – a welcoming, relaxing and unique space, where people will want to spend time, to visit local shops, cafes and restaurants and to travel to and through the city centre.”
A detailed artist’s impressions and a 3D fly-through have been released to illustrate how the street and surrounding area within the UNESCO World Heritage Site could look under the George Street and First New Town Public Realm Improvements Project.
The project is expected to cost £32m, with £20m from Transport Scotland via Sustrans.
Edinburgh City Council first agreed to increase pedestrian space in the city centre in 2013 and, beginning in 2014, a new layout was trialled for 18 months on George Street.
Since then design principles have been developed and the project was widened to include the interconnecting Castle, Frederick and Hanover Streets and the junctions with Charlotte and St Andrew Squares.
A spokesperson for Edinburgh City Council said: “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 to East Link schemes, which will transform walking, wheeling and cycling routes, and connections across the city centre.
“These schemes also support the City Mobility Plan, a ten-year strategy to overhaul transport and mobility in the capital to deliver a sustainable, net-zero carbon and inclusive future.”
Edinburgh City Council said key considerations for the project have been putting people first, protecting the area’s heritage, promoting the environment and biodiversity, and providing accessible transport links.
Further consultation with key stakeholders is set to take place over the next month; the outcome of which will inform a final design proposal, set to be brought before the council’s transport and environment committee in April.
The required statutory processes under which the scheme will be constructed would then begin in the summer.
Simon Strain, Interim Head of Infrastructure Delivery for Sustrans Scotland said: “George Street is one of the most vibrant and distinctive shopping streets in Scotland.
“We are pleased to be supporting the increased space for walking, wheeling and cycling that this project will create, upgrading one of the city’s key travel routes.
“The new spaces for sitting and relaxing provide both visitors and residents with comfortable spaces where they can rest and enjoy the World Heritage Site.”
Man charged with murdering ‘kind-hearted’ grandfather
Thomas Adams was pronounced dead after police attended a disturbance at a house in Glenrothes on Saturday.
A man has been charged with the murder of a grandfather in Glenrothes.
Police were called to a disturbance at a house on Uist Road in the Fife town at about 7.10pm on Saturday.
Emergency services attended and a 65-year-old man was pronounced dead a short time later.
He has now been identified as Thomas Adams.
In a statement issued through Police Scotland, his family said: “Thomas was a kind-hearted and loving husband, father, father-in-law, grandad and brother who will be sorely missed by all of his family and many friends.”
A 29-year-old man was arrested and charged in connection with the incident and appeared at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court on Monday.
Dale Berwick, from Buckhaven, faces charges of murder and assault, and another of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.
He made no plea and was remanded in custody.
Detective inspector Christopher Mill said: “Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of Thomas.
“I would like to thank members of the local community for their assistance in this enquiry and to reassure them there is no threat to the wider public.”
Members of the public are being invited to have their say on the future of Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations.
A 12-week consultation on the future of the winter festivals is being launched, seeking feedback from people who live in the city.
The survey will ask for views on how the festivals can go ahead from 2022 onwards.
In 2019, about a million people visited Princes Street Gardens for the Christmas market, Hogmanay party and other events.
However, the growth of the events in recent years has led to concerns about the impact they have on the city centre.
The most recent events were held online-only due to the pandemic.
The survey will be carried out by market research company Progressive on behalf of Edinburgh city council.
The council’s Culture Committee convener, Donald Wilson, said: “We want to hear from the people of Edinburgh both on how our Winter Festivals should be delivered and, indeed, what should be delivered.
“Their feedback to our consultation will shape the future direction of our celebrations from 2022 onwards, when the current arrangements come to an end.
“This is a good time to take stock and look at what people think and what people want.
“Our winter festivals have grown in size and renown both at home and throughout the world.
“Their cultural and economic importance is well documented and through this consultation we will establish a balanced knowledge of how Edinburgh citizens regard these celebrations, both positive and negative.
“It is therefore important that as many people as possible make their views heard and I would urge everyone, whatever their views, to spend the small amount of time needed to complete the survey and have their say.”
Edinburgh City Council has agreed to support the introduction of ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics in Scotland – to prevent women being harassed by pro-life campaigners.
The move follows repeated calls for 150-metre ‘no-protest zones’ to be erected outside the entrance to the Chalmers Street Sexual Health Centre, after a survey showed a majority of women are made to feel uncomfortable by pro-life protests outside of the clinic.
The results of the survey, carried out in partnership with the clinic over April, May and June of 2020, showed that 56% of the people visiting the clinic felt very uncomfortable due to the protesters, although 9% thought it was the right of the protesters to voice their opinions.
Back Off Scotland, a campaign group started by Edinburgh University students, was set up in response to the harassment of women seeking abortion healthcare at the Chalmers Street clinic.
Anti-choice protests in Scotland date back to 1999, with hospitals and clinics across the country being targeted.
Protestors often approach patients directly and have distributed medically inaccurate leaflets. Even those not accessing abortion services are targeted, according to the group.
Back Off Scotland says protests are a threat to privacy and right to access legal, essential medical services.
Now, a petition organised by Back Off Scotland has been accepted by Edinburgh City Council, following a meeting of the local authority’s policy committee.
The petition, which attracted more than 4800 signatures, stated: “Anti-choice activity directed at individuals threatens their right to privacy and right to access legal, essential medical services.
“Patients have reported feeling intimidated and harassed as they try to access medical care in confidence, and that tactics such as praying, rosaries, and medically incorrect leaflets make them feel pressured when accessing abortion and other sexual health services.
“Women not accessing abortion care are also targeted – with one woman with a pram being told ‘she hadn’t killed her baby so why would she support abortion’, and another being told she would die of cancer for having an abortion in the past.
“Both sites that provide abortion services in Edinburgh are targeted by protesters – there is no way for abortion patients to avoid them.
“Current law does not give the police the power to stop this harassment.”
Speaking at the debate, SNP council leader Adam McVey said: “There are certain principles I would certainly hope we would all be in agreement with – certainly the right to access healthcare facilities unimpeded when needed is one of the absolute cornerstones of our society, as is free speech.
“But free speech doesn’t give us the right to run into a crowded building and shout ‘fire’ at the top of our lungs – there has to be sensible parameters around how we engage in some of these questions as a society, that are very emotive for many people.
“That principle of people being able to access healthcare if needed, when they needed, and unimpeded, is sacrosanct.”
Conservative opposition councillors did not explicitly oppose the aims of the petition, but did raise concerns that the matter of legislation is for the Scottish government, not a local authority.
Leader of the council’s Conservative group Iain Whyte said: “This issue is not within the competence of the council.
“In speaking to your proposal – it was mentioned that this is a national issue – and that is the best way of dealing with this.
“The petition calls for new legislation – that’s not a matter within the competence of the council, that’s for the Scottish Parliament to determine.”
Although the council cannot introduce the legislation itself, it will now engage with the Scottish government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to help support that aim.
Following the meeting, Back Off Scotland co-founder Lucy Grieve said: “Before we expanded our campaign nationally, our goal had been to get Edinburgh City Council to legitimise buffers city-wide.
“It’s a positive move that the council leader is now going to engage with the Scottish Government and COSLA in support of this matter because they, like us, believe that this issue is best tackled nationally.
“Protecting patients from intimidation and harassment when seeking healthcare is a bipartisan issue and one that requires action from the Scottish Government now.”
City Centre Green Party councillor Claire Miller, who has been a vocal supporter of the Back Off Scotland campaign, said: “I’m glad that the committee today agreed to work with other councils and the Scottish Government to protect everyone who needs to attend sexual health clinics.
“It is long overdue and I welcome moves to create safe buffer zones around sexual health centres so that everyone can attend without encountering protests.
“It’s just a shame that all councillors could not speak up with me, loud and clear, in unequivocal support for access to healthcare without harassment.
“I speak up on access to abortion because others feel it’s too dangerous for them – I am in public life to be a representative, and I won’t shy away from speaking out for people I represent.”
Edinburgh Zoo has announced it will reopen this weekend for local residents after being closed due to coronavirus restrictions.
In a Facebook post, the attraction said that Scottish Government guidance means they are allowed to reopen as a “safe, outdoors environment for City of Edinburgh residents”.
The zoo will reopen on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to members and prepaid ticket holders, with tickets for March set to go on general sale next week.
The post added: “Safety comes first and there will be a wide range of measures in place to protect our visitors, staff and animals. This includes everyone needing to book tickets in advance.
“We are asking everyone to follow government guidance which means you must not travel from outside the local authority area or gather in groups of more than two households with more than two adults.
“Thank you to everyone who has supported us by donating, adopting, joining as a member and much, much more – you are helping to care for our animals and protect endangered species in Scotland and around the world.”
Man arrested over sexual assault of 14-year-old girl
The 62-year-old was arrested in relation to five sexual offences in Edinburgh between December and February.
A man has been arrested in connection with several sexual offences which took place in Edinburgh, including the assault of a teenage girl.
Police said the 62-year-old was arrested in relation to five sexual offences between December 31 and February 20.
These took place in Viewforth, Craiglockhart and Union Canal.
The most recent incident was the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl as she walked in woods at Craiglockhart on Saturday, the force said.
The man has been charged and is due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Monday.
Detective inspector Keith Fairbairn, from Edinburgh’s public protection unit, said: “We continue to conduct inquiries in relation to these offences, and anyone who may have witnessed a crime, or not reported an incident to officers already, should come forward so we can thoroughly investigate.”
Anyone with information has been asked to contact police by calling 101, or the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
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