George Street plans show lack of business vision - Kevin Buckle

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A big week for stories covered in this column before, with the plans for George Street revealed, a provisional date for non-essential shops to open given by Nicola Sturgeon, and the Cockburn Association commenting on Edinburgh World Heritage pulling out of the Tron Kirk.

While April 26 didn’t seem too far away when shops first heard the news, it quickly dawned on many that with the tier system also reintroduced then for many businesses, most of their customers wouldn’t be allowed to visit.

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Whether it is retail or hospitality, too often the impression has been given they can open for business when actually to open will only incur even more losses.

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A taste of things to come?A taste of things to come?
A taste of things to come?

None of this bodes well when moving forward into recovery, as whether it is the Scottish government or Edinburgh Council, there appears to be a basic lack of understanding the various issues businesses face.

While even free movement within Scotland would not be ideal for most retailers, it would at least give all but the most tourist-related shops a chance to start recovering, with the proviso that more people would be able to visit in the not too distant future.

The plans for George Street certainly seem impressive but completely ignore the fact that rows of empty shops will not be a good look.

Already I’ve been told that this won’t be a problem as this lovely new George Street will simply take up the slack with more restaurants and cafes.

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Photographer-Ian Georgeson-
Owner of Avalanche records Kevin Buckle at his shop in the GrassmarketPhotographer-Ian Georgeson-
Owner of Avalanche records Kevin Buckle at his shop in the Grassmarket
Photographer-Ian Georgeson- Owner of Avalanche records Kevin Buckle at his shop in the Grassmarket

As with hotels, Edinburgh is close to having enough, if maybe short on high-end accommodation. And similarly, while there is still room for more specialist restaurants and cafes, they will not come close to filling up all the space that will be available, given the number of shops that have either recently closed or are preparing to move to the St James Quarter.

While rents will certainly go down on Princes Street and George Street, there are not really many businesses for which these prestigious locations were just out of reach and lower rents will make them affordable, and that is before the rates are considered.

As far as the Tron Kirk is concerned, no doubt both sides involved will hide behind Covid, but truth be told this was always the most likely outcome and now the council has to look for another solution in the worst of times.

In more niche news but very pertinent to this column the “interesting” restaurant/café space required by the council as part of the King’s Stables Road development to attract footfall to the area is now under a change of use application to become offices, joining the art centre and visitor attraction on the scrapheap.

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Meanwhile the ending of car parking in George Street makes the car park further down King’s Stables Road more likely to survive, meaning all plans to link the Grassmarket to Princes Street via an interesting thoroughfare will have been abandoned.

Let’s hope plans for George Street fare better.

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