Leaders: Causey plans should be developed further

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IT is a question which lingers in the air every year as the Festival packs up and leaves town.

When we are so good at creating a carnival atmosphere on our streets every August, why can’t we capture just a little bit more of that communal bonhomie the rest of the year round?

It is one of the hallmarks of the Fringe that it takes over many neighbourhoods and reclaims them as places where pedestrians want to linger. The closure to traffic in various parts and at various times of the High Street, George Street and Roxburgh Place has been one of the keys to transforming the atmosphere in those areas.

What is being proposed at the Causey in the Southside is not a traffic ban, but a halfway house where cars are discouraged from using the street with access still allowed. The end result, though, would be similar to the Festival hot-spots with the aim of creating an environment for outdoor relaxation and entertainment. Could these plans create “an urban oasis” in what is now an area largely dominated by traffic? Why on earth not?

The weather is the variable that is always raised when there is talk of creating year-round spaces for open air relaxation and events in the city centre.

But it works very well in Ashton Lane in Glasgow, where a busy mixture of students and other residents make it one of the city’s most popular bohemian hang-outs. The Causey, in the heart of university territory, surely has the potential to do the same.

The popularity of Ashton Lane has made it an almost 24-hours-a-day destination with an attractive combination of shops, restaurants and bars. Some aspects of the Causey project will need careful management, particularly the risk of a semi-pedestrianised area becoming little more than a magnet for late-night drinkers. But the potential for creating Edinburgh’s very own answer to Ashton Lane is exciting and deserves to be developed further.