Glasgow shows Edinburgh the way on regeneration - Kevin Buckle
News this week that Dundee’s Assai Records were to open in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street was met with a quote from Councillor Angus Millar, Convener for City Centre Recovery at Glasgow City Council that it was another sign of investor confidence in Sauchiehall Street and the city centre.
Regular readers of this column wil know I have pushed for a “business czar” for Edinburgh on several occasions and this appeared to be very much what Glasgow had put in
A quick check revealed that Edinburgh council does not have any equivalent or indeed any committee that would bring the elements together that would support a role like this.
A couple of phone calls later and I had discovered that the council’s policy of granting change of use allowing more food outlets had come to a halt with several refusals recently.
Now I’m not disputing the fact that Edinburgh city centre probably has enough food outlets but there is hardly a queue of retailers looking for premises so if Princes Street is ever to recover it definitely needs a coordinated plan.
Several people I spoke to did say George Street was showing signs of recovery and I must visit to see how things are looking there but everybody agrees that while there are some positive plans for Princes Street certainly currently things look little different to a year ago.
While the council has a wide number of other issues to deal with it is more than disappointing that there is no group even looking at the city centre’s problems. Surely between the council and Essential Edinburgh who manage the New Town city centre Business Improvement
District a plan could be devised and somebody put in place to move things forward at a faster pace than is currently the case.
Looking around other places are also focusing on their city centres as this is without doubt a UK issue and frustratingly I think Edinburgh is far better placed than most to come up with a solution but isn’t even really trying to tackle the problems.
I will contact the Edinburgh city centre councillors and other relevant members of the council to see if they can explain why Glasgow feels the need to have a Convener for City Centre Recovery but Edinburgh has no such position and report back.
There is no doubt that the pandemic only increased people’s propensity to shop online and in the aftermath many have not returned to their offices on a full time basis but Edinburgh was hit of course by problems even before all this when businesses started leaving Princes Street
and George Street to move to the new St James Quarter.
It is clear Edinburgh will need to depend on its visitors more than ever and it would make a lot of sense if instead of simply talking about footfall those making decisions at any level actually had a comprehensive breakdown of how that footfall is made up and what people are looking for when they visit.
Rather than sitting back waiting for retailers to come to Edinburgh there needs to be a proactive group of people whose job is to entice successful businesses without an Edinburgh base to open up here and encourage those here already to expand.