Edinburgh council can’t fix the basics, so how can it ‘transform’ the city – Kevin Buckle

Ignoring problems that are not being properly addressed now can only lead to more trouble down the line, writes Kevin Buckle

Friday, 20th September 2019, 4:56 pm
Updated Friday, 20th September 2019, 5:56 pm
PIC LISA FERGUSON 16/07/2014 The number of beggers/homeless people around Edinburgh seems to have increased over the last week in the run of the festival and tourist season BHS, Princes Street, Edinburgh, 11.53am

No surprise that the full council approved the final ten-year strategy for the City Centre Transformation this week. The most common comment I receive is that this is a transport plan and not a general transformation and this was addressed at the strategy hearing.

Claims among other things that this is an economic plan showed that councillors understood that on the surface the strategy does seem to be about nothing but how the centre’s transport affects those using the city centre but unfortunately digging deeper only brings folk to the same conclusion.

Top of most people’s list are potholes and rubbish collection and it is perfectly fair comment to say that both these things are issues in the city centre as well further afield but they receive no mention in this strategy. Neither does the imminent emptying of possibly as many as 50 shops as the occupants move to the new Edinburgh St James.

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Now of course all these factors are being addressed elsewhere though the idea that simply relaxing usage for shops will be a solution is a very superficial one. However, if this city centre strategy is to be an overarching plan then simply ignoring problems that currently are not being successfully addressed can only lead to trouble further down the road.

These issues are by no means the only ones being ignored either. One thing that visitors have commented to me a lot about are the number of people begging on the streets.

Many visitors get off my bus at Boots and the first thing they are confronted with is a lady who has lost the bottom half of her right leg begging outside. Often when I’ve got off there myself I’ve heard comments of how sad she looks or similar and on many levels this is not the image Edinburgh should want to portray.

Nobody would want this lady hounded and also nobody should have to sit out on the street like that all day able-bodied or not.

Whenever I have asked if those begging on the streets cannot be helped and those for whom it is a business removed I’m told it is “too complicated”.

Again there was talk at the council strategy meeting of using recommendations from the Royal Mile Action Plan, a five-year plan that was over five years ago and was not implemented at all until very belatedly one of its more controversial suggestions that A-boards be removed was actioned.

I had a lady in this week from Copenhagen – a place many supporting the city centre strategy worship at the altar of. Here on business and with some free time she asked me how far she had to go before the tourist shops ended.

This was addressed in the Royal Mile Action Plan with the council using the many shops they own to improve diversity of retail but they did nothing and frankly now it is too late.

What I think many people feel is that in the strategy that has been approved there are many worthy aims but there are also more important things relevant to more people and with limited resources it is feared these more practical and important objectives will be forgotten.