‘Offensive’ Kick Ass Hostels banner approved

�1.1m has been spent transforming the former Salvation Army hostel. Picture: Toby Williams

�1.1m has been spent transforming the former Salvation Army hostel. Picture: Toby Williams

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PLANNERS have waved through an “offensive” sign mounted to a historic Grassmarket landmark – because they don’t have powers to ban foul language.

Watchdogs have railed against the new “Kick Ass Hostels” banner fixed to the former Art Roch hostel on West Port, branding it “inappropriate” for World Heritage Status surroundings.

But after rubber-stamping the sign yesterday, planning chiefs defended the decision claiming the literal content of advertising was not within their jurisdiction.

Complaints should now be directed at the Advertising Standards Authority, they said.

The outcry comes almost a decade after the Morningside Glory pub caused a stir on Comiston Road when the double entendre in its title drew polite gasps of horror from its patrons.

City planners can restrict garish lettering, advertising dimensions and designs deemed inappropriate for their environment but are hamstrung when it comes to content.

Now under new ownership, the hostel previously hit the headlines in 2012 when residents barricaded themselves inside after the business plunged into administration.

Hostel owner James Cameron said his firm has spent £1.1 million transforming the interior of the 100-year-old former Salvation Army Women’s Hostel into “one of Edinburgh’s best”.

And he said the distinctive name was aimed at younger visitors and baulked at claims it was offensive.

He said: “We thought we have a kick ass hostel in the centre of Edinburgh and we wanted to use this modern term to appeal to the younger market. It’s not offensive, our logo is a donkey – or an ass.

“I can’t stress enough how much things have changed in the hostel industry. A lot of older people might still regard hostels as dingy but every time we have opened somewhere we have made it the best in terms of cleanliness and staffing.”

Bill Cowan, secretary of the Old Town Association, believed the name wasn’t suitable for the “architectural wonderland” of the Grassmarket. “If you had a hostel in a place with nothing else going for it I could understand calling it something like this but when you have this wonderful art nouveau building, why not capitalise on that?

“Why take a building like that in this gem of a location and put this on it. The typeface, the name . . . you would be toiling to make something uglier, but planning regulations have no control over those things at all.”

A council spokesperson, said: “We are responsible for approving the size, material used and look of signage. If anyone has an issue with the content they should report that to the Advertising Standards Authority.”