Controversial plans to open a £160,000 “tram shop” in the West End next month have been scrapped.
New city transport convener Lesley Hinds has ordered the U-turn after traders slammed the move as a waste of money.
The Evening News revealed earlier this year how council chiefs planned to open a drop-in trams information centre in Shandwick Place – in a shop unit where the previous occupants shut down because of the project.
The council claimed local businesses had requested an increased presence in the area, but West End traders suggested staff might need danger money for facing members of the public angry about the trams.
Councillor Hinds said that instead of a tram shop, the shop unit would now become a neighbourhood office for the West End, giving residents, businesses and others easier access to help from the council and a chance to get action over concerns such as street cleaning or graffiti.
She said the lease for the premises had already been signed by the previous administration, but she has asked officials to renegotiate the £30,000 a year deal with a view to withdrawing from it next year. She has also told them to slash the £100,000 fit-out costs, for example by using existing council furniture.
Cllr Hinds said: “I listened to feedback from the public in ordering that the plans for the proposed tram shop be withdrawn.
“But we did not want to be paying rent for it and just have it as another boarded-up shop. This is a better option for using the building and helping to connect important council services with the people they serve.
“Meanwhile, we are still committed to finding ways of improving communications on the tram project that help those affected by the project and which are also good value for money.”
The new office at 6 Shandwick Place – previously sweet shop Sugacane and before that Black & Lizars – will provide a base for staff responsible for services, including street cleaning, roads and housing.
Information on the tram project will be available at the Lothian Buses shop across the road.
Michael Apter, chairman of the West End Association, said he would have preferred to see a retailer taking the lease of the shop, but added the neighbourhood office was a better idea than the tram shop.
“I’m sure this will be helpful. The principle of the council engaging more fully with ratepayers and people who live and work in the city is a good one.”