Archive for January, 2015

Cooperation not competition is needed in Edinburgh

edinburgh lights 2014 useTalk of Old Town businesses joining together to compete with the undoubted power of those within the Essential Edinburgh BID especially at Christmas and New Year in my mind is to miss the point. What then about the West End, Stockbridge, Leith etc ? Surely the point should be that there is one concerted effort especially at these key times of the year to encourage people to visit all the places Edinburgh has to offer.

A rethink is also needed as to whether those stalls/businesses allowed to trade in Edinburgh just at these key times actually bring in additional visitors or simply relieve them of monies that would have otherwise been spent with businesses trading 52 weeks a year. I can’t imagine many folk come to Edinburgh’s Royal Mile especially for the jewellery stalls ! Attractions are needed for sure and extra food stalls if organisers are sure surrounding businesses wouldn’t be able to cope but otherwise established shops should be benefiting from visitors.

The tram works didn’t just affect the core of the city centre but all the city centre businesses as people just stopped coming into town completely. Now there is great emphasis understandably on getting people back to Princes Street but many have lost the habit of shopping further afield and youngsters who at one time would trail all around the wider city centre never even think to venture further.

Surely it makes sense for areas not to compete with each other for visitors but work together. I do wonder with all those stalls in Princes Street Gardens why each area isn’t given its own stall to let people know that Edinburgh has far more to offer than what can be seen from Princes Street. Surely with the vast sums spent attracting people to Princes Street and St Andrew Square they aren’t afraid of a little competition !    

Avalanche updates

avalanche-logo-use NMEFirstly it looks like we have run out of options in the Grassmarket. The shop next to Espionage is not available so that really is that. Obviously we can now cast our net wider and more importantly find somewhere that is rates free. I have been offered a shop but I’m still open to any ideas that are put to me this week.

As for the City Art Centre and the idea of somwhere showcasing the history of Scottish music that has been an incredibly popular idea. It was suggested the best way forward was to ask for a trial to show king's stables road outlinewhat could be done but so far I am yet to get a reply. 

My understanding with the King’s Stables Road site is that the council will make a decision in the middle of February. Once all the final submissions are in this month I should be able to say more about what is proposed at least by the developer I have been speaking to. It is hard to gauge what other things are on offer for the site as despite  the council saying consulting with the community was of great importance I’m led to understand that no other developer has been in touch.

So at least our ideas are attached to a developer’s bid that involves a sizeable arts and community element and has involved consultation with others in the area. Anything than that I can’t really say but hopefully more soon.

There is so much that could be done to promote Scottish music and one thing that became clear talking to Creative Scotland and the SMIA is that promoting Scotland on a regular basis is not their job ! Certainly industry events will be attended but the day to day grind of promoting Scotland’s artists that is not for them. More emphasis also seems to be placed on “international” profile than simply being known in the rest of the UK. Oddly this is mirrored with business organisations all  more interested in export than any consolidation at home. Anyway I sent them my ideas and will make them public soon once I have had their comments.

This has all dragged on far longer than I expected and even the King’s Stables Road site was meant to be decided on by Christmas. I’ll be very disappointed if everything now isn’t settled within the month.   

A short Avalanche update

victoria streetThe saga continues ! A decision on the King’s Stables Road site will now be made mid February. Initially a separate issue to Avalanche reopening the ongoing issues with the Grassmarket and in particular its footfall means that it is now the key to turning things around. With news that footfall in November was down 17.6% year on year when last year wasn’t good it has to become a serious factor in our plans. At the same time I truly believe the Grassmarket can be revitalised given a chance.

I thought there was a great compromise in offering to take over when Analogue Books left. It would have given us a base/HQ I would have been happy to keep on whatever else transpired. However that hasn’t worked out and left us with one last throw of the dice before I look at something completely different. With footfall up slightly on the Royal Mile but down so dramatically in the Grassmarket it is clear that people are not too far away. At the same time nobody understands more or has fought harder to bring people back to the Grassmarket.

As a consequence others have returned to the owners of Espionage given the shop we looked at next door is still empty to see if the premises can now be made available even for a short time. The idea is not only would it give Avalanche a place to sell off a lot of the great stock we have but it could also be used as a gateway to the Grassmarket promoting all that the Greater Grassmarket (as the larger area is called) has to offer.  There was a similar idea for the police box at the bottom of the street to be used to promote the area but sadly that was sold to another party.

While it is not expected to have the King’s Stables Road site fully functioning until 2017 there is much that can be done in the interim depending on whose bid is successful. On the other hand there is a possibility the site could simply be left dormant for a year while planning is approved and that would be a year too long for businesses in the Grassmarket. Even after that the place could just be a building site for another year. Consequently returning for a short time while things become clearer is a great solution for Avalanche.

I would hope to know more later in the week. Otherwise there is a positive but very different way forward I will need to explore.           

Public Realm: The Grassmarket Report 4 October 2012


Public Realm: The Grassmarket
Planning Committee
4 October 2012

1 Purpose of report
1.1 To report back on the review of the Grassmarket Public Realm Project and to
provide a progress report on proposals to enhance Rose Street.

2 Summary
2.1 A before-and-after review of the impact of public realm work in the Grassmarket
has been carried out by consultants. This concluded that the project has
delivered economic and placemaking benefits and identified a number of
lessons that could be learned and applied to future public realm projects.
2.2 A framework for bringing forward public realm enhancements along Rose
Street has been coordinated by Essential Edinburgh (EE). This aims to
reinforce Rose Street as a destination, providing an enhanced pedestrian
environment that will encourage pedestrian priority, improved linkages and
increase activity.

3 Main report
The Grassmarket

3.1 In 2007, as part of the Council’s Capital Streets programme, Scottish
Enterprise and the City of Edinburgh Council commissioned consultants to
carry out a baseline survey of the Grassmarket before any improvement work
was carried out. The construction works were completed in April 2009. A follow
up study was commissioned in 2011 which has allowed before-and-after

3.2 As well as looking at hard information including the number of retail units, the
study looked at the perceptions of businesses and visitors to see how people’s
views of the Grassmarket have changed over time. It also assessed the impact
of a calendar of events that was put in place following the completion of the

3.3 Copies of the study are available in the Group rooms. The key findings are as

The Physical Environment
3.4 There is no doubt the physical environment has improved significantly. This
was recognised by the 2010 Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning where the
Grassmarket won the Development on the Ground category. The shift in the
balance from a car to a pedestrian dominated space has had a significant
impact in realising the potential of the Grassmarket as a key historic space in
the city centre. It was, however, considered that, in some areas of the
Grassmarket, greater attention could be given to reducing the amount of street
clutter e.g. poles, signs, commercial waste containers.
The Business Base

3.5 When the baseline survey was carried out the retail businesses in the
Grassmarket were in a fragile state with about a quarter reporting they were
less profitable than they had been three years before. About 20% expected to
move or cease trading by the start of 2010. The follow up survey shows there
has been little change in the overall number of units (132 in 2006 and 131 in
2011) but there has been a change in status or occupancy of over a third of the
business premises. The number leaving or ceasing trading has been roughly in
line with their predictions but the number of occupied premises has also
remained the same, suggesting that demand for retail space in the
Grassmarket is steady. There has been a small but noticeable shift from shops
to restaurants over the period. The results of the post completion business
survey show high levels of confidence and optimism – markedly higher than in
2006. A large majority expect some business growth in the next three years
and that they will remain in the area. This finding is all the more positive when
viewed against the background of the current economic climate.
Residents and Visitors

3.6 A survey of residents and visitors produced generally positive results although
concerns remain among residents that issues of anti-social behaviour have not
been addressed or improved by the project. It was recognised that the project
could not directly address all anti-social behaviour issues but, by extending the
hours of table and chair licenses into the evenings, the worse excesses of antisocial
behaviour have been pushed back to later hours. There is strong
agreement that the Grassmarket is a more attractive space and that it is
cleaner and better managed. There is a feeling that the area could offer more
for families and children.

3.7 An events programme ran for 14 months during 2009/2010. Its purpose was to
demonstrate the potential of the newly created public space. This received
generally positive responses from businesses and residents. Some businesses
reported that the events had made a significant contribution to their business
and most residents thought the programme was good and that the events had
improved the image of the Grassmarket. A sharp reduction in the number of
events following the conclusion of the programme means the Grassmarket is

still not an established events venue in the city and the economic benefits are
unlikely to have been sustained.

3.8 The programme of events did not have the opportunity to become established
resulting in a delay in the generation of sustainable, long term economic
impacts. The report recommends that action be taken to reinforce the success
of the Grassmarket. This should include the development of a further
programme of events; possibly managed or coordinated by the proposed
Grassmarket Business Improvement District (BID).

3.9 An assessment of the economic value of the improvements was one of the
tasks asked of the consultants. While the benefits are difficult to quantify, it is
possible to estimate the gross value added (GVA) per employee in the sectors
represented in the Grassmarket. By comparing the present situation to one
where nothing was done, it is estimated that the gross impact of the project is
£1.4 – £4million. If additionality and displacement are taken into consideration,
this comes down to £250,000 – £500,000 per year. It was anticipated that many
benefits would result from establishing the Grassmarket as a significant events

Lessons Learned
3.10 While recognising that the Grassmarket has been a successful project, the
report identifies a number of lessons that can be learned from the process.
These are:
• The case for any new public realm projects should always encompass
environmental, community and economic benefits;
• The Council should engage with residents and stakeholders at every stage
of the process;
• Before work begins on designing a scheme, clear aims and objectives
should be set, underpinned by a performance framework;
• The impact of the construction phase should be minimised through
discussion and agreement with contractors and all stakeholders including
residents and businesses;
• The real work starts when construction is finished and this should be
reflected in an implementation plan;
• There should be agreed arrangements to ensure the legacy and benefits
are sustained.

3.11 In response to this, subsequent projects that the Council has initiated in the Old
Town such as the Royal Mile project and the City Centre Southern Arc have
adopted a process of targeted community engagement prior to the
development of any particular proposals. It is intended that potential future
projects in St Andrew Square, George Street and Leith Walk should recognise
these issues.

3.12 Finally, the report reinforces the significance of the public realm as an asset for
Edinburgh. It points to a compelling case for enhancing the city’s image and
reputation through improved public realm.

Rose Street report then follows