The luxury hotel wants to allow passenger vehicles to access its front door through a pedestrianized square, sparking controversy and safety concerns.
Why does the W Hotel want to drive cars to its main entrance?
- The W Hotel is a 12-storey development that is part of the St James Quarter, a new shopping and entertainment complex in Edinburgh.
- The hotel managers say they need to give permission to passenger vehicles to drive up to its main entrance at the St James Square, which is designed primarily as a pedestrian environment.
- They argue that this is necessary to facilitate “red carpet events” and to improve access for guests with mobility issues.
How would the passenger vehicles enter the St James Square?
- The hotel has applied for an experimental traffic order (ETRO) that would allow two taxis or one executive coach at any one time to enter the square through automatic bollards at the end of Elder Street.
- The ETRO would be in place for an initial two-month trial and extended if there is a positive outcome of a review.
- The hotel and the developer of the St James Quarter have discussed with the council the arrangements that would need to be in place to safely manage the square in the interests of all users.
What are the objections to the hotel’s proposal?
- Some councillors, including the city’s transport chief, have expressed their opposition to the hotel’s proposal, saying it would compromise the potential of the square as a public space and pose a risk to pedestrians and cyclists.
- They also question the need for vehicles to access the hotel’s main entrance, given that the St James Quarter has a large underground car park and is well connected by public transport.
- They suggest that the hotel could roll out the red carpet in the car park or make arrangements for individuals who have particular access needs.
What are the implications of the hotel’s proposal?
- If the hotel’s proposal is approved, it would set a precedent for other businesses or venues in the St James Quarter or elsewhere in the city to seek similar permissions for vehicle access.
- It would also raise questions about how to balance the needs and preferences of different users of the city’s public spaces, especially in areas that are undergoing major redevelopment or regeneration.
- It would also challenge the city’s vision of creating a more sustainable and inclusive transport system that prioritizes walking, cycling and public transport over private cars.
What will happen next?
- The Transport Committee of the council will decide on whether to progress the ETRO at a meeting on Thursday (October 12).
- The decision will be based on the report by the council officials, who have recommended approving the ETRO, as well as the views of the hotel managers, developers, councillors and other stakeholders.
- The outcome of the decision will have significant implications for the future of the St James Square and the St James Quarter as a whole.