King’s Stables Road planning application and the Grassmarket

A planning application for the King’s Stables Road site has now been lodged and it can be viewed here

king's stables road outlineNot too much more can be said that hasn’t been said already in previous blogs. Edinburgh Council clearly understood what was needed here both in  supporting the arts and improving footfall in the area and instead took the money for a hotel and student flats being the main focus. The only surprise is that even now the developers are unable to name their hotel partner despite promising it would not be a budget hotel and would be declared in time for the planning application and that the much reduced arts facility still doesn’t have a taker when you would imagine there would be arts organisations out there prepared to sell their souls to developers in return for free space.

In terms of objecting to the planning application it is hard to see what can be said. Edinburgh Council have ignored their own brief for the site so they are not now going to refuse permission on that basis. The developers have certainly paid too much for the site so unless they try to drop their price at some point I can’t see how the council will suddenly have a change of heart and revert back to their original demands. It would appear that so far there have been no comments at all. It would certainly still do no harm to object on the basis it does not comply with the council’s original brief and that in particular the arts complex concept fails both in its diminished size and in being an attractuion.

grassmarket emptyAs for the Grassmarket which would benefit hugely from footfall being dragged through from the Victoria Street/Cowgate end to the West Port and King’s Stables Road it seems to have been abandoned by the council completely now. Plans to finally have some attractions at Christmas were voted down even for a trial week never mind the month envisaged on the basis of complaints from a very small but vocal number of residents. While footfall in November was generally disappointing everywhere in the Grassmarket where figures were already at an all time low footfall was down 47.2%  month on month and  down 25.1%  year on year.

These are huge drops and while it would be inconceivable that December’s figures would also drop is has to be remembered how low those December figures are with even Underbelly saying in 2014 “Footfall in the Grassmarket is less in December than in February. We need to bring some of those 2.6 million people who passed through our two sites at St Andrew Square and East Princes Street Gardens to the Old Town.” To put that in persective footfall in the Grassmarket this November was 111,319 and that figure is taken from the far busier end and includes all the night time traffic which of course is of no use to shops.

Edinburgh Christmas lightsMore and more Edinburgh Council is happy to have pop ups appear during all the best trading months but leave shops paying rent and rates all year round. At the same time the council works with Essential Edinburgh and Underbelly to do all it can to keep visitors and shoppers within a very small part of the wider city centre at Christmas and New Year. Without doubt the Grassmarket is not the only area to suffer and in what is already tough times on the high street to let some pick and choose when to trade while discriminating against shops trading all year can only have dire consequences in the future.

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