The first part of Paris’ exciting new Seine-side development has just been unveiled.

In May, Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, received approval for his controversial Berges de Seine (Banks of the Seine) project, which is reclaiming the motorways on both sides of the River Seine from the 40,000 motorists that use them each day and creating a green space for locals and tourists to enjoy.

Work on the Right Bank was completed in September, with the riverside road, voie Georges Pompidou, narrowed, traffic lights added and wider pavements and new cycle lanes installed. Parts of the Left Bank will be auto free when work is complete in spring 2013 and 4.5 hectares of new space between the Musée d’Orsay and Pont de l’Alma will be dedicated to events, sports, nature, culture and relaxing.

Trees and grass are being planted along both banks, and a floating garden made up of five islands will be added to the river. Visitors to the city can take leisurely strolls along the paths and look out onto the historic islands Ile St Louis and Ile de la cite and iconic Paris monuments including Notre Dame Cathedral and the Hotel de Ville.

However, not everyone is in favour of the 35 million euro redevelopment. The project has seen much opposition from the right-wing UMP party, and many of the drivers that use these roads have joined forces to create an organisation called 40 millions d'automobilistes (40 million car users) in attempt to have their voices heard.

Delanoë and his supporters defend the project, pointing out the benefits of reduced traffic and pollution, and noting that the new, smaller roads will only add a extra five minutes onto journeys. The mayor has also highlighted the cultural importance of this space for both locals and visitors to the city.

Kim Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes