TWO landmark stores in Princes Street are set to be bulldozed under radical plans drawn up for city chiefs.
The Bhs and Marks & Spencer stores at the east end of the world-famous thoroughfare are expected to be demolished to make way for a brand-new building.
The modern section of Jenners department store and the entire Mount Royal Hotel above M&S also face the wrecking ball as part of the master plan prepared for the taxpayer-backed Edinburgh City Centre Management Company.
The plans - which would mark one of the biggest facelifts for the street since the Victorian age - have been inspired by a similar proposal drawn up by heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association with city architect Malcolm Fraser.
It is thought Bhs, owned by retail tycoon Philip Green, and Marks & Spencer will be key players in the new multi-million-pound development, which will stretch right back to Rose Street.
The new development is likely to feature the kind of large, department store-style shop units which major stores now demand. Luxury flats on the upper floors are also thought to be a possibility.
Detailed talks between ECCMC and the property owners are due to take place later this month, although no timescale has yet been set for the development.
Council leader Donald Anderson today
said: "It is important that the quality and range of retail in Princes Street is improved. Much of the space is unusable or inefficiently used."
Rob Winter, chairman of the Princes Street Traders’ Association, said the street required a major revamp.
"Everybody recognises that sections of the street are not up to standard for both retailers and shoppers alike," he said.
"We want Princes Street to be a viable and successful shopping place for the next 50 years. We want to stop people going to out-of-town locations."
Last month Princes Street’s reputation suffered a fresh blow when figures showed several English shopping destinations were now considered more prestigious.
The Capital’s most famous street had long enjoyed prime status as the most expensive street outside London to rent shop space.
But boulevards in Newcastle, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester can now command higher rents, according to the figures.
The rent which owners can command for shop buildings is seen in the industry as the strongest measure of a street’s prestige and ability to attract customers.
Heritage watchdogs said the vision would rescue the flagging fortunes of Princes Street, which is steadily slipping down the league of shopping destinations.
David McDonald, director of the Cockburn Association, said: "The Cockburn Association and Malcolm Fraser’s proposals to regenerate Princes Street came about as an inventive solution to counteract planning applications for shopping mall facilities in Princes Street Gardens.
"I am delighted that this has inspired further action and plans for Princes Street. Anything that can be done to improve the quality of Princes Street must be welcomed.
"Some buildings will have to be surgically removed to improve the architectural quality of the street and provide floor-space to meet modern shopping requirements.
"The key to success is meeting the current needs of retail while ensuring world-class architecture for a street that deserves no less. If this can be achieved I would be delighted."
The future of a listed building above the Marks & Spencer food store, which adjoins the main M&S shop, and the neighbouing women’s clothing store Romanes & Paterson, is uncertain, although it is believed both may remain.
A service tunnel would also be built underneath Rose Street so lorries could deliver goods to the stores.
The master plan has been drafted by Broadway Malyan, which designed the bridge linking the St James Centre with Calton Hill across Leith Street.
The firm, which has offices across the UK, was also behind the Sony headquarters in Lisbon and BP’s 33-acre research and technology park at Sunbury.
No-one from the ECCMC, which is backed by the city council and more than 90 businesses, would comment on the plans.