Why we need a city centre recovery plan - Kevin Buckle

Many food outlets are struggling for staff as well as customersMany food outlets are struggling for staff as well as customers
Many food outlets are struggling for staff as well as customers
After the massive influx of Harry Styles and Bruce Springsteen fans recently Edinburgh city centre is now back to being chock-a-block with tourists, which is good news for some but certainly not all the local businesses.

It looks almost certain now that office worker numbers will never get close to what they were before the pandemic and while most have returned to their offices for part of the week, it almost now seems normal to hear that two or three days are spent at home.

While takeaways that catered mainly for local office workers have suffered badly those that rely more on visitors have returned to, if not normal, certainly an acceptable level of business.

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Restaurants appear to have fared worse, not only losing business from locals but saying that visitors now seem less keen to visit too. In a final twist even those restaurants still doing well are struggling to find staff.

At the same time most of the places opening in the city centre are food outlets so it is hard to see how the numbers opening each year can survive in such an overcrowded market.

As for retailers it is possible to cater for the visitors without resorting to tartan tat and certainly at Avalanche I find people do want a souvenir of their time in Edinburgh, but that can just be an interesting T-shirt or maybe a record or CD they have had trouble finding.

I have called before for Edinburgh Council to adopt a city centre recovery plan, as is the case in many other places, but nothing ever happens and it has been clear now for many years that the council reacts to pressure groups rather than making policy based on their own observations.

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Many businesses are calling this a make or break summer and I do feel very fortunate that Avalanche has found a home now in Waverley Market that has brought us more success than in any other of our locations, which says a lot given how well those other shops did.

My biggest disappointment is not knowing how well things would have gone in the Grassmarket if the council had continued with all the plans it had after the pedestrianisation. And ironically on walking down King’s Stables Road recently I saw the long empty unit with the lovely arches that had been earmarked for “interesting retail” and which all the architects that I had spoken to raved about as being a key feature of the project had been filled by a firm of architects!

August will be interesting this year, as there are now many visitors to the city who are simply here on holiday and not caring for what the Festivals have to offer.

This is partly due to all the extra student accommodation that has been built in recent years, which of course is empty of students in August and free to be let out and means that there is now more capacity than necessary for those who performing or visit the Festival.

One thing is for sure. With so many food outlets now opening the idea that this August or Christmas there needs to be any pop-ups to cater for demand is completely daft.

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