Edinburgh shops face pavement merchandise ban in bid to clear city streets

Shopping rails outside of shops. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
Shopping rails outside of shops. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
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Shops could be banned from displaying their wares on city pavements in a  bid to clear more clutter from the Capital’s streets.

Council officers will draw up options to reduce or remove items displayed by businesses following a citywide a-board ban rolled out last year.

But business leaders have called for a “level playing field” for traders.

A motion was tabled and agreed by Green Cllr Claire Miller, requiring officers to bring forward their options for street merchandise by the autumn.

She said: “My motion specifically seeks to look at an area where the council’s powers are already very clear and where it’s definitely in our gift to create a policy that would benefit people by removing more street clutter.

“The question for us is how we want to use this existing power. My intention with this motion is to kick off that debate – to seek to build on the successes of the a-board ban and hopefully improve our streets for everyone.”

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, who has overseen the a-board ban, welcomed the motion but warned the requirements of businesses will need to be considered.

She said: “Clearly if we zoom in on some of the merchandise displays, which is often a topic that comes forward around this, they are inevitably quite varied in nature.

“We need to be aware of the impact that any move towards complete removal of those might have on both the life of the street and a possible negative impact on certain types of small retail businesses across the city.”

Cllr Macinnes pointed to the importance of fruit and vegetables being displayed outside greengrocers to the vitality of streets and suggested this could be deemed more acceptable than other goods.

She added: “That tends to engender quite a different reaction to tourist goods, for example, that are displayed in narrow streets in a crowded city centre.

“We shouldn’t underestimate the degree of research and consultation that will be necessary to ensure that any decisions made on the back of these reports can be enforced and do not have a disproportionate impact on small businesses.”

Opposition councillors have raised concerns some businesses may feel targeted if any new rules are not clear.

Conservative city centre Cllr Joanna Mowat, said: “I will be interested to see what they will bring forward. It has to be easy to understand and reasonable and there’s a danger of going away from that.

“I was really worried about the response the convener gave – about allowing stuff that we like on pavements, but not stuff that we deem unattractive or a nuisance.

“I have got businesses coming to me about the a-board ban saying they are significantly down. There’s this vision that we want cleaner streets but then businesses are struggling and the retail arena is quite difficult at the moment. What we cannot do is kick businesses.”

Businesses have warned that as long as planning rules are met, traders should be allowed to display mechanise on pavements.

Garry Clark, east of Scotland development manager for the  Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Businesses should be allowed street displays provided they conform to planning rules.

“Where displays are not permitted by planning then businesses would expect rules regarding street clutter to be enforced equally with the a-board ban.There must be a level playing field for all businesses.”