Now’s the time to start replanning our city centre -Kevin Buckle

A new report from Living Streets Scotland this week calls for a whole raft of changes to the Lower Royal Mile, otherwise known as the Canongate.

Saturday, 9th January 2021, 7:00 am
Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman enjoys a car-free day on the Canongate at a city council Open Streets event

Last year Edinburgh World Heritage made sweeping recommendations for the wider Royal Mile.

Going further back there was a council-backed five year Royal Mile Action Plan from 2013 to 2018 that failed to deliver many of its aims particularly relating to the shops that were on offer.

Both the council and EWH reports identified that what shops were on offer and how the Mile looked needed to change while the Living Streets report is unsurprisingly more concerned with banning cars.

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While there is certainly a case to make the walk from the Tron Kirk to the Palace a more pleasant one even if the whole area is pedestrianised it won’t hide the fact that there is little to offer by way of retail beyond tourist shops.

While it has to be expected that such an area would cater for the many visitors there is clearly a huge difference between catering for visitors and dedicating the whole Mile to them.

It isn’t just about the Royal Mile but all those interesting closes that people need to be encouraged to investigate that are home to many small businesses that were of course badly affected when they were no longer able to use A-boards.

As I mentioned last week the future of the Tron Kirk is now in doubt and that is a key part of the Royal Mile based as it is in the centre. One thing that is often overlooked is the need to convince people to keep on walking towards the Palace when they are at the Tron.

Truth be told there is little of interest in view as you look across to the Canongate and most folk turn left heading to Princes Street while some will go right to visit the National Museum of Scotland. When Avalanche was in the Tron we spent a lot of time directing visitors to the museum!

The problem is that while there are several community, heritage and active travel groups that will always have their say there is nobody to represent the businesses. Old ground for this column I know but if any good is to come from

the pandemic it is that major changes that would never have been considered before are now a real possibility whenever we reach the land of the new normal.

Indeed there is an overwhelming amount to address in the city centre when you consider that Princes Street, George Street and Rose Street will all need a plan and that is by no means the end of it and in fact more like the start when you think about how many other areas will need attention.

Given even the pessimists were saying we would be in a new much better place by April and that is now seriously in doubt planning even for the medium term is not easy but long term planning should start now.