TWO city neighbourhoods are set to be transformed as the door opens for more pubs, cafes and restaurants.
Moves agreed today will see planning rules relaxed to allow greater variety of businesses to take up empty shop units in Gorgie/Dalry and Corstorphine.
The move is designed to regenerate town centres hit by the recession and the growth in online shopping.
Dalry Road, Ormiston Terrace and St John’s Road are among the areas where “up to one third” of former shops will be able to become something else.
It follows a similar initiative in Princes Street which paved the way for more restaurants and bars to open in the West End.
Retail expert professor Leigh Sparks, of Stirling University, said the changes would allow more pubs, bars and restaurants, potentially changing the face of these areas.
He said: “Freeing up planning rules is a good way of re-vitalising town centres. This is about getting more footfall and variety of uses.
“Corstorphine has a fair amount of charity shops which mask the true number of vacancies. Vacant shops can raise the crime rate in these areas, creating a ‘dereliction factor’.
“Encouraging businesses, whether pubs or creative businesses, or workshops, is about filling gaps.”
But he also stressed that it must be “done cleverly”, with planners striking a balance between different types of business.
Councillor Ian Perry, chairman of the planning committee, said: “We are trying to be as flexible as we can to make sure we are not left with empty shops. A lot of town centres in Edinburgh have suffered in the past, and we have been a bit too restrictive in relation to the kind of businesses that can go in. We can’t direct people but we can loosen up the criteria. The overall plan is to regenerate town centres by encouraging a mix of businesses.”
Corstorphine Community Council voted against a relaxation of the rules, however, amid fears it would open the floodgates to more fast food outlets and encourage noise and litter.
Warren Hope, the area’s spokesman on planning, said: “It seems to be the thin end of the wedge, opening the door for more takeaways and we feel that the area already has enough food outlets. We would rather have a mixed shopping environment, if that was at all possible.”