Edinburgh's Princes Street, one of the great European boulevards, must not be left to rot – John McLellan

Shoppers on Edinburgh's Princes Street (Picture: Lesley Martin/AFP via Getty Images)Shoppers on Edinburgh's Princes Street (Picture: Lesley Martin/AFP via Getty Images)
Shoppers on Edinburgh's Princes Street (Picture: Lesley Martin/AFP via Getty Images)
The justified plea from Essential Edinburgh chief executive Roddy Smith for a reduction in business rates in the city centre looks like a forlorn hope now the scale of the crisis facing local government is clear.

Non-domestic rates account for over a third of Edinburgh Council’s income, and the crippling bills central businesses face are unlikely to be cut when the authority itself is facing the loss of millions.

And with the Institute for Fiscal Studies expecting funds for enterprise, tourism and trade promotion to drop 16 per cent, the city centre’s economic recovery looks precarious.

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Princes Street is looking as unkept and tawdry as ever, and without decisive action it will continue to be dominated by empty units or unattractive occupants like the garish American sweetshops.

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Bringing new life to what should be one of Europe’s great boulevards might not be a priority for a council facing an unprecedented threat to its services, but nor can such a centrepiece be left to rot.

Who knows what will happen to the George Street plans, but under the previous administration, the future for Princes Street amounted to little more than getting rid of the buses with little regard to the wider impact.

The exciting, privately funded plans for the Ross Bandstand could have been a catalyst but they were killed off by visionless opposition and, having spent £1 billion on putting a tram line down the middle, a plan for the sustainable revival and promotion of Princes Street should be a must.

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