We were promised jetpacks and a retractable roof for the Grassmarket – Kevin Buckle

If only plans for a Wimbledon-style roof for the Grassmarket had been unveiled along with the rest of the uncosted City Centre Transformation Plan. Picture: AFP/Getty
If only plans for a Wimbledon-style roof for the Grassmarket had been unveiled along with the rest of the uncosted City Centre Transformation Plan. Picture: AFP/Getty
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I’ve not had time to read the full City Centre Transformation Plan and the webcast for the transport and environment committee meeting is on while I write, but all the summaries seem agreed on what it is about.

There are lots of good ideas for sure and some things that really catch the imagination but with nothing costed and practicalities addressed only briefly there is certainly a long way to go.

Of course what follows now are a range of consultations on the full gambit of plans that were brought forward at Thursday’s meeting. Edinburgh Council does love a consultation and I do wonder if there has ever been a consultation in which at the end the result was that the plans were dismissed.

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These consultations are put forward as a way of being “fair” and giving folk the chance to speak but in reality plans are normally put forward and the public are dared to disagree.

For the record I’m in favour of huge swathes of the city centre being pedestrianised but only if this doesn’t have too great a negative impact in other areas and I simply don’t know the answer to that. What is very obvious is that the cycling lobby has made sure its views are represented at a level that bears no relation to the numbers that do cycle and as soon as something like that happens it has to be at the expense of others.

I didn’t see much in reference to my own pet project King’s Stables Road, though Daisy Narayanan, the Transformation project’s director, has just given it a mention as I listen to the meeting but again until I’ve read the report properly it wouldn’t be fair to comment further. I am fairly confident that there is little specifically aimed at improving things for businesses but who knows, maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.

I did expect there to be at least a nod to costs and the proposed lifts are a good example. Nobody I have spoken to thinks there is the slightest chance that the lifts will go ahead or had any idea what the cost might be. It rather reminded me of the Grassmarket where the weather always seemed to be against us on days we hoped it would be busy and the traders agreed it would be great if we could have a retractable roof fitted à la Wimbledon.

All we would have to do was overcome numerous planning issues and raise the necessary funds. Of course it was no more than a pipe dream but something we could dream of as the rain clouds appeared on a Saturday afternoon.

I suspect the lifts are only slightly less fanciful but it would be great to at least have costings so we could see just how unlikely they are and maybe that will happen when there is a new report in September.

One person I spoke to, having seen many promises fail to materialise before, said the lifts would just be another example and maybe jetpacks would be a better idea and prove far more useful for getting around the city in general.

At least then the citizens of Edinburgh could say when that idea failed too “we were promised jetpacks”.

Retail’s needs must be at heart of Old Town BID

Another project close to my heart is the Old Town BID, now rebranded as Original Edinburgh. I’ve always thought that despite the failings of the Grassmarket BID it was essential that an Old Town BID was successful so it could work with the already hugely successful Essential Edinburgh.

Heavily flagging up the need for collaboration in its rebranding announcement, it surprised me that businesses in the Old Town knew nothing of Original Edinburgh until it was announced and in some cases having not seen the announcement they were still unaware even afterwards.

Hopefully this is just a blip but all experience points towards the Old Town businesses needing to be kept informed at all times and this is not the best of starts.

There is great potential in the Old Town it goes without saying, but far more needs to be done practically to help businesses and retail in particular rather than the current mantra, seen most recently in the City Centre Transformation Plan, that improving the public realm will improve business.

To say this is not being thought through is to state the obvious. The idea that making a street more pleasant makes people put down their phones and stop ordering online is ludicrous.

This is where hopefully the BID will step in, though slightly worryingly initial comments did also seem to revolve around improving the Old Town’s appearance rather than focusing on specific ways people can be persuaded to spend more money in shops.

The bottom line is that this is what is needed and I’m well aware how hard a task it is but to avoid it as happens currently is certainly not the answer.

Potholes beware – the Road Mole is real and it’s coming to fill you in

I was disappointed to hear that at a council meeting a while ago Road Mole’s innovative new machine for repairing potholes had been dismissed as something that probably just existed on Twitter.

Thankfully it was then confirmed that talks were still in progress and a follow-up meeting was already being planned.

While the council claims their work on transport links is led by public demand actually the public are far more concerned with the state of the roads than anything else.

It has to be hoped that things start to progress a little more quickly, especially as one of the results of the recent Open Streets day was that people noticed just what a poor state the roads were in. My understanding is that this is something that could become a reality in a matter of months rather than years if given the go-ahead and certainly it would be a popular development with the public.