The Old Town’s been thrown a lifeline with BID plans – Kevin Buckle

Jocelyne Fleming, Old Town BID project manager
Jocelyne Fleming, Old Town BID project manager
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Good to see that a new project manager for the proposed Old Town BID has been appointed. Currently there is a very one-sided competition between businesses in the New Town and Old Town with Essential Edinburgh representing many of the big businesses and institutions and the Old Town without any organised representation.

Of course the Old Town is not without its own big hitters, including Edinburgh Castle, but there are also many small businesses and as I’ve said before while there are understandable reservations, an Old Town BID, especially one supported by the already long established Essential Edinburgh BID, definitely has to be better than no BID.

An example of Michael McVeigh's work entitled The Beached Whale, Portobello, 201

An example of Michael McVeigh's work entitled The Beached Whale, Portobello, 201

The new appointment is Jocelyne Fleming who has managed a couple of BIDs in Canada and therefore comes to the job with experience and an open mind on what can be achieved in the Old Town. It does mean she will need to familiarise herself fairly quickly with all the various interest groups that inhabit the Old Town but in the end the clue is in the name and she is there to represent businesses and their interests.

Already delayed twice, there really is no room for further hesitation and hopefully this time next year there will have been a positive ballot. At the moment the Old Town businesses are hit by a double whammy of the general malaise on the high street and having a very well organised and well connected neighbour. An Old town BID will go some way to remedying that but after all this time it needs to come at little to no cost to the many small businesses and show a good return for the bigger concerns.

There has been so much focus on George Street and yet just a fraction of what was available in funds for the last consultation will be available to deal with the myriad of concerns the Old Town faces. Of course the Essential Edinburgh businesses are not immune from problems and at the top of the list at the moment is the issues caused by the relatively imminent opening of the St James Centre.

The obvious implications for the West End seem to have only hit home relatively recently and from what I hear about planning applications the council have yet to catch up on how the West End will need to adapt if it is to survive. Clearly the plans to turn the former House of Fraser building into a “global visitor experience” for Johnnie Walker are a start but much more joined-up thinking is needed if the opening of the St James Centre is not to prove a disaster for other areas and not just the West End. Meanwhile other problems such as the “difficulty” of getting from the Meadows to the New Town that many consider imaginary are given great thought and funding.

With all this talk of the two BIDs it is ironic that Avalanche’s new spot in the Waverley Mall is officially in no man’s land. The centre, along with the station, are not included in either BID area and with Essential Edinburgh having only just had its ballot, full membership would not be available until the next ballot in several years’ time.

An astute redrawing of the Old Town BID area, however, could see them become members in just under a year. Certainly until something is done – and Waverley Mall has a lot to offer so would appeal to both BID – it will sit in between the two areas a bit like Switzerland but without any wish to be neutral!

Rose Street artist has a brush with officialdom

I read the piece in the paper about the artist Michael McVeigh losing his pitch on Rose Street because of safety concerns while work was done nearby and to be honest had never come across his work.

Looking at his website I was very impressed and particularly taken with his paintings of local pubs I knew well.

I put the pictures up on Twitter and Facebook and they have been hugely popular. Bennets bar came out on top closely followed by the Bow Bar and then The Café Royal.

A little more research showed Michael was a well-respected artist and certainly there was great feedback to the posts on social media.

Given the new space just acquired at Waverley Mall I emailed Michael to say if he ever wanted wall space to sell his work I would be happy to oblige.

I don’t know whether he will ever take me up on the offer but as far as I am aware he can still be found on Rose Street on a Saturday this month and he has a website for his work at michael-mcveigh.co.uk.

Potholes fixed and South Sub open? You’re welcome

I always thought if I was to leave any legacy at all to Edinburgh beyond some people’s fond memories of Avalanche it would be the Scottish Music Exhibition Centre.

However with news this week that Road Mole, the company I featured a short while ago as a possible solution to Edinburgh’s pothole crisis, had been invited up for talks and there was also a planned visit from Edinburgh Council to see the work they had done it may very well be that if I’m remembered for anything it will be for playing a small part in solving Edinburgh’s potholes problems.

That is, of course unless the South Sub railway returns, in which case that may be added too. The last I heard an update of the most recent viability report was being considered so who knows – that may still happen.

When I was given this column I was free to cover anything but with a leaning towards arts, culture and business. It will surprise nobody that potholes and trains were not mentioned.