Has everybody forgotten about Princes Street? - Kevin Buckle

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After last week’s column about the plans for George Street what was interesting is that most of the comments I received were actually about Princes Street and why were the council concentrating on one historically important thoroughfare while doing nothing about one of Europe’s most famous streets.

Realistically nobody is expecting a quick fix but it is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any plan at all that is baffling people.

While the recent rubbish-strewn city centre made worldwide news in the summer there seems to be little realisation that while it has to be said Princes Street is not the only major UK street to suffer in this way, rows of empty shops daubed with graffiti is not what visitors are expecting from a trip to Edinburgh.

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In particular, the black boards of Jenners have now become a target for everything from political statements to humourous quotes – something I see every morning as I get off my bus.

An empty shop tagged with graffiti In Princes StreetAn empty shop tagged with graffiti In Princes Street
An empty shop tagged with graffiti In Princes Street

Some people were wondering why the money being spent on George Street could not be spread more widely to improve the city centre but of course the George Street plans are mostly being financed by Sustrans who have a very specific agenda to make, at least in their minds. George Street more people- and cyclist-friendly.

Of course Sustrans is in turn financed by the Scottish Government so the money being used is taxpayers’ money and many people I have spoken to are not convinced that a revamped George Street benefits Edinburgh as widely as the claims that are being made.

It puzzles many that organisations such as Edinburgh World Heritage and The Cockburn Association are more concerned by the odd tree branch getting in the way of the view of a building than the dreadful state of Princes Street.

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Soon the Christmas festivities will start and city centre businesses will be faced with the usual influx of traders who appear during the good times to make as much money as they can before disappearing into the night or possibly online until Easter or even the summer.

I’m often asked if these people make enough money that they can afford to take so much time off and on the whole generally it can be said those days are gone but those who provide food can just pop up from time to time at events and those in retail can sell online.

The big factor here is that they are not lumbered with the huge overheads full-time city centre businesses face and many in fact have other sources of income to the point their “business” is more of a hobby.

I’m amazed at the number of organisations that have set themselves up to help “small businesses” and in particular those aimed at “makers”. I was even more amazed to see there are now several organisations set up to help the people who help people.

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What is indeed ironic is these very organisations are regularly accused of being cliquey and discriminatory in a way Boris Johnson and his Tory chums would be proud of.

Thankfully it is a world I don’t have to inhabit but I feel sorry for those that do and feel let down.

One thing is for sure: come January Princes Street will be back to looking a sorry sight.

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