Cllr Neil Gardiner: Plans are afoot for opening up our Capital to everyone

Residents are to be asked for their views on the future of Princes Street. Picture: Greg Macvean
Residents are to be asked for their views on the future of Princes Street. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Edinburgh is one of the most attractive cities in the world in which to live, visit, work and study. The population is predicted to increase by 23,000 people by 2023 and tourism is booming. So, we’re working with the Scottish Government, our regional partners and local communities to meet the challenges that come with this success.

To help us achieve this we have commissioned a team of consultants to carry out research into visitor accommodation, shopping and leisure as well as land use for offices and industry. These studies are now available for everyone to read online.

Cllr Neil Gardiner is planning convener at Edinburgh City Council

Cllr Neil Gardiner is planning convener at Edinburgh City Council

As we prepare for our next local development plan City Plan 2030, this research will help us identify the choices we need to make as the city changes over the next ten years. We’re keeping local communities involved at every stage of this process and in 2018 we held more than 31 local events.

More immediately, the studies will be used to help us make decisions which relate to the current plan, which was adopted in 2016. The issues raised in the studies are very timely as we take forward several other major strategies to transform the city for generations to come.

Just last week, approval was given to launch a consultation on major proposals under Edinburgh City Centre Transformation (ECCT), a bold strategy to reshape Edinburgh through a series of radical interventions aiming to significantly improve public spaces and prioritise ­movement on foot, by bike and by public transport.

We’ll also be carrying out a really important piece of work to look at future planning policies for Princes Street. Despite pressures from online shopping nationally, Edinburgh has a buoyant retail industry evidenced by the £1bn investment in the ­Edinburgh St James development, due to open next year. We need to look to the future though and make sure that our planning policies are flexible enough to move with the times.

Two weeks ago, the £150m ­Johnnie Walker visitor centre received ­planning approval at the West End. We need to keep active frontage in Princes Street but there is plenty of scope and opportunity for other uses, as well including the upper levels with outstanding views. We’ll be asking people for their views and ideas on the future of Princes Street in the autumn as part of our review of supplementary guidance for the city centre.

Each study has shone a light on a number of issues, such as the growing use of residential properties as short term lets, demand for hotels, much-needed office space being lost to other uses, the need for new industrial space to allow many businesses to grow, and how well placed Edinburgh is to handle trends in the retail and leisure sectors. A huge amount of work is already going into addressing many of these challenges such as our work with the Scottish Government on a regulatory regime for short term lets and a tourist levy.

The City Plan 2030 is currently expected to be adopted by 2022 and I’m confident that as a council we have the right plans in place to make sure that everyone will have the chance to enjoy Edinburgh’s success.

You can read the studies at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/cityplan2030

Cllr Neil Gardiner is planning convener at Edinburgh City Council.