A WHOPPING £33,000 bill to stop a crumbling derelict council building from injuring passing pedestrians has been described as “frightening” by angry traders.
The former council road services building in King’s Stables Road has stood empty for five years, but has failed to attract interest from developers, and has instead had to be scaffolded to stop pieces of masonry from dropping on to the pavement.
The bill for the scaffolding is being picked up by taxpayers.
Now Grassmarket business owners believe inaction over the prominent eyesore is holding back the area’s potential, and are making their own plans to improve the appearance of the street.
“It’s almost as if there isn’t any desire to sort it out, whereas if it was a privately owned building, you would expect it to get fixed a hell of a lot quicker,” said Sean Hooley, facility manager at the Budget Backpackers Hostel in Candlemaker Row. “The longer this goes on, the greater the costs are going to be. From that point of view, it’s frightening.”
Scaffolding and a protective layer of plastic mesh were installed in 2011 after pieces of masonry began dropping from the facade of the three-storey building onto the pavement below. A council spokeswoman confirmed that the cost of erecting and renting the 37.5-metre- long scaffold, as well as paying monthly road use licence charges, comes in at £11,000 per year.
The site is just a stone’s throw away from bustling Grassmarket, and sits along the route that links the area to Princes Street Gardens and Lothian Road. Traders say King’s Stables Road could be an important route bringing foot traffic from the West End into the Old Town, but fear its neglected appearance and chronic problems with dog fouling make it a no-go area.
They are now planning to take matters into their own hands, teaming up with the Edinburgh College of Art to create hoardings that will shield the most undesirable parts of the street. The panels will be decorated with installations commissioned from art students, as well as historical photographs of the area.
“We’re hoping to make it a more welcoming entrance to the Grassmarket,” said Fawns Reid, owner of hat shop Fabhatrix and chairwoman of the Grassmarket business improvement district. “It’s just not very nice at the moment because that building hasn’t been developed. Obviously if it was developed, it would be a much more appropriate gateway to the Grassmarket.”
Ms Reid added that while redevelopment was the ideal long-term solution for the site, the impact of the recession meant that plans to sell it to a developer were “pie in the sky”.
The council said it was committed to finding a suitable use and making sure it is redevelope “in the near future”. “The scaffolding has been protecting the building’s structure for public safety reasons. At the same time options for its future redevelopment have been actively considered,” a spokesman said.