‘The recession is hitting but it’s not all grim’

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ANYONE who walks the streets of the city centre doesn’t need to be told that the recession is hitting even a relatively well-placed city like Edinburgh.

As we report today, the number of shops lying vacant in the Capital has hit one in 12 – the highest rate in almost six years.

The evidence is there for all to see, with a total of 114 units across our streets with darkened windows and “To Let” or “For Sale” signs on the outside.

The city has lost many historic names and a number of our quirky individual shops over recent years. Even big names like La Senza and Gamestation have announced closures.

One of the hardest-hit areas has been Queensferry Street, where one in five shops lies empty, including the former homes of Snappy Snaps, Deli Delight and Cockburns delicatessen. But the picture is not uniformly grim.

There was dismay when Grays ironmongers closed after 160 years on George Street, but the space was taken by fashion outlet White Stuff. Most recently, Primark has opened in the old M&S ladies shop in Princes Street.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Retail Consortium observes that Edinburgh has fewer vacancies than the national average – and would have even fewer with relief on business rates to help kick-start the economy.

Make no mistake that if recovery is to get off the ground it will be powered by engine room Edinburgh. While there is no room for complacency, the Capital is still well-placed to take that lead.

Home truths

planning rules sometimes feel like they are designed to stop people making their homes their castles.

Certainly, that is how Margaret Cherry feels after being ordered to replace a “historic” door which she had removed from her Colinton cottage because it was rotting and it didn’t let in enough light.

But, complex and officious though they may sometimes seem, rules are there for a reason.

In this case, they are designed to make sure no-one who has (by nature of our own mortality) temporary ownership of part of a historic city such as ours can make changes which damage its heritage in the long-term.

In this particular case most people will have sympathy for Margaret and wonder if some compromise couldn’t be reached. But the procedures are there for a reason, even when it isn’t an open and shut case.