SHOPPERS are to be offered free parking in a new bid to help traders in the West End in the face of the latest tram works.
A “parking loyalty scheme” has been proposed after transport chiefs announced unexpected plans to shut down West Maitland Street.
Details are still to be worked out but the idea would be that shops could refund the cost of parking if a purchase is made in store.
The city council has confirmed that it will now close West Maitland Street for around 18 months from the end of March, meaning that the whole stretch of road from Haymarket to Princes Street will be shut off to traffic.
Grant McKeeman, who runs the Copymade shop in West Maitland Street, which has become known for its artistic protests against the tram works, said: “The impact will be massive and we are struggling as it is. The traffic situation changes every day and people are avoiding this area already because they’re scared to come close to the works.
“We have to pay couriers to deliver jobs to save people coming in.
“To date, we have had no compensation whatsoever. The works have gone on for longer than expected and they’ve affected us badly, but we’ve not had a penny.”
City council leaders announced last month that an extra £100,000 was being made available to help support businesses in the West End that were affected by works.
Businesses had proposed free parking from 3pm to attract people into the area, although council officials are understood to favour a parking loyalty scheme so that people do not abuse the system.
One option is for refunds to be provided by local businesses, which are then given the money by the council. Another option is issuing the refunds through credits for the RingGo cashless parking scheme.
One council source said: “We have taken on board suggestions by local traders and something being investigated is the possibility of offering a parking loyalty scheme so that, if you go into the area, park your car then use local businesses, you can get a parking refund.”
The closure of West Maitland Street is to be introduced in order to extend the work sites at Haymarket and Shandwick Place to allow contractors moving utilities to work alongside those building the tram line and prevent further delays to the project.
Traffic into the city centre will be diverted via Palmerston Place, while traffic from Dalry will be diverted along Morrison Street. Buses will be diverted locally via Rosebery, Grosvenor and Lansdowne crescents in the north and by the West Approach Road in the south.
Gordon Henderson, regional organiser for the Federation of Small Businesses in the east of Scotland, said: “The West End traders are being heavily inconvenienced – that’s a fact.
“The council has been very open to listening to the concerns of traders and that’s a good thing.”