I took a walk though Princes Street Gardens this week to check on the felled trees next to the National Gallery of Scotland and as I suspected it didn’t look great but at the same time it wasn’t the Mad Max wasteland that I’d seen in the pictures.
Clearly this could have been handled better but the pictures I had seen that only had the tree stumps in shot didn’t tell the whole picture – wider shots would have shown a different scene.
What was actually more worrying to me was the massive disruption around the National Gallery of Scotland and even I struggled to make my way around and get up to the High Street. Now it may just be that some of this will not last long but most of the fencing and diversions looked like they would be up for a while.
Add in the further disruption that is always caused when the Christmas market and its attractions are being built and a wide part of one side of Princes Street will look like a no-go area for possibly some time.
I did spend time walking around the city centre and what was very surprising was just how busy just about everywhere was, even my old haunt the Grassmarket. I’m used to seeing a busy Princes Street but footfall can drop quite dramatically as soon as you leave the heart of the city centre.
However, it didn’t take long to notice just how much of this footfall was large groups of people being shepherded about and people dragging cases behind them. It used to be common to see a lot of folk arriving with cases on a Friday for the weekend but this was a Thursday and they were literally everywhere.
The next thing I noticed was how many people were walking in the road on the High Street and on Victoria Street where the pavements were simply too narrow to cope. Certainly it was a very visible argument for pedestrianising Victoria Street.
The Grassmarket was busy with a lot of groups sitting around, though with the sun out there was a decent number of folk eating at the tables too. I know from experience that little of this footfall translates to shopping and sadly several great shops have been lost. The situation is exacerbated every time a non-food retail shop is taken over by somebody selling food. Having said all that, at least it was good to see folk milling about and when the The Lot building reopens at the Castle end things can only get better.
As I was making my way towards a meeting at 5pm what was very noticeable was locals dodging their way through the crowds of visitors and trying to get home.
I heartily recommend that anybody who wants to air an opinion on what is needed in the city centre spends some time walking around said city centre on different days and at different times as I’m constantly surprised at how often people hold rather skewed views based on the occasions they are in town which don’t reflect the whole picture.