City centre street closure hits local businesses

Edinburgh’s Leith Street closes for construction as a 10 month redevelopment project begins.

The busy city centre street closed in both directions at 5 am on Saturday 2 September as part of the on going renovations to the St James Centre.

Motorists and pedestrians alike are being warned about diversions and delays due to the project as the road shuts between Calton Road and Waterloo Place.

However, it is local businesses who are most concerned by the closures.

Barish Coffee Shop owner, Sakine Akar, expressed his concern to The Scotsman saying, “I’m worried I can’t put the tables outside because of the dust.

“I don’t know where I’m going to pack and how I’m going to do my deliveries.”

His concerns were echoed by Lorraine Roy owner of a Leith Street bridal store who told The Scotsman, “Obviously we are worried about the disruption the road closure could bring.

“We are open and will not let this disruption spoil our day-to-day running of the business.

“We’ll carry on, but obviously it’s not going to be easy.”

Conservative city centre councillor, Joanna Mowat, has stressed the need to hold developers accountable to ensure that the closure occurs for the shortest possible time and that the city is able to adjust to the changes.

Meanwhile, the director of the St James Centre, Martin Perry, has publicly stated his appreciation for the patience and understanding of those affected by the closure.

The closures are necessary in order to lay new gas and water pipes for the six million pound development of the St James Centre.

After a decade long delay – blamed on the recession, the Scottish independence referendum and Brexit – the refurbishment hopes to breathe new life into the 1970s shopping centre.

Scheduled for re-opening in 2020, the refurbishments promise new shops, restaurants, flats, a public square, a deluxe multi-screen cinema and a hotel.

Predicted to create up to five thousand jobs, it is hoped the revamp will significantly strengthen the local economy. The project began in September to avoid disruption during Edinburgh’s busiest period, the Fringe Festival, but initial disruption is to be expected.

Several city centre bus routes, bus stops and cycle paths are being diverted around the area while other road traffic will be diverted to Regent Road and York Place. However, emergency service vehicles will still have access to the area, along with cyclists and pedestrians.

The street is expected to reopen in July 2018.

 

Image: Chris Malcolm

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