It looks like it’s stall over for the High Street - Kevin Buckle
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Gerry has a shop and workspace in St Mary’s Street which only now is starting to be open to the public again but he has for many years had a stall on the Royal Mile which provided the footfall and income needed to support his artistic endeavours.
I knew that obviously during the lockdown and then measured reopening the stalls on the High Street had been suspended but what I hadn’t realised was that stalls would no longer be allowed moving forward.
There was a mixed bunch of stallholders in previous years, with maybe not all of them in the spirit of artists selling their wares but that was a problem with the council not being prepared to make judgements about those applying for stalls rather than any failing of the genuine artists.
I haven’t passed by recently but I’m certainly unaware of the Tron reopening so there really is nowhere now on the Royal Mile for local artists to trade. I have suggested the return of Luckenbooths or at least a modern-day equivalent before and it appeared to get a positive response from city centre councillors but now it would seem that the pandemic has given council officials the chance to do what traders had always feared and end stalls on the High Street completely.
At the same time there has been much talk about encouraging artists to occupy the empty shops of Princes Street at least temporarily but as usual the council seems to have little understanding of the practicalities.
I’ve always considered Roddy Smith, the CEO of Essential Edinburgh, the organisation that looks after the city centre businesses, to be one of the good guys so it should be possible for Roddy to work something out with the council and the owners of empty shops as it would benefit the businesses he represents that are trading there already.
There was of course talk of empty shops being used during the Festival and then at Christmas but nothing materialsed at all except American candy shops. At least the council has more control over The Royal Mile and I can see no reason why they don’t have a curated return of artists’ stalls.
In other news very relevant to trying to fill those empty shops I also got my rates bill this week, which is considerable given Avalanche’s Waverley Market location.
To be honest I’m still confused as to the rates position in the UK. Retail, hospitality and leisure properties in England, Wales and Northern Ireland appear to be offered a 50 per cent discount for 2022/2023 while in Scotland there is no reduction.
I’m convinced I must be missing something but whatever the position while it is clear that the current rates system is not fit for purpose there also doesn’t seem to be a viable alternative on the table.
While the issues on Princes Street are complex it would be a relatively simple matter for the council to restore street trading on The Royal Mile and maybe be even more adventurous in the long term with Luckenbooths that I’m sure would become an attraction.
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