Edinburgh warned against ‘Wild West’ approach to street pubs and cafes

An Edinburgh heritage group has warned against a “Wild West” approach to open-air entertainment spaces for pubs and cafes in the Capital, aimed at revival of the local hospitality industry after the coronavirus pandemic.

By Ilona Amos
Saturday, 24th April 2021, 5:56 pm

The Cockburn Association, one of the world's oldest architectural conservation and urban planning monitoring organisations, has raised concerns over beer gardens and sitooteries being constructed across the city as easing of lockdown rules permits premises to serve booze outdoors from Monday (April 26).

In a post on its website, the charity says: “As we introduce more and more drinking into open spaces across the city, a Wild West approach under the cover of Covid recovery will not serve the city well.”

It continues: “Table licenses and open beer gardens are a bit of a mixed blessing in the city.

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Continental-style outdoor eating and drinking areas have become an increasingly common sight in Edinburgh - seen here in the Grassmarket. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

“They can add vibrancy and vitality to city centre streets with a real and positive ‘continental’ feel valued by residents and visitors alike.

“However, if poorly located or managed, they can also be areas of considerable strife, bringing drinkers and diners into direct conflict with residents and other businesses who are nearby and have their amenity compromised.”

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The association says it is “very conscious of the need to support local business recovery as we emerge from Covid lockdown”.

The capital's Cockburn Association has warned against a "Wild West" approach to licencing outdoor pubs and cafes to help the hospitality industry recover from Covid amid fears of negative impacts on neighbourhoods

But says it also backs the “right of residents across the city to the peaceful enjoyment of their neighbourhoods and safe access to public spaces of all types”.

The organisation expressed support for some of the pavement seating areas that have become a familiar sight across Edinburgh in the past few years, such as that seen in the city’s George Street.

But it also highlighted potential drawbacks with such schemes, which can have negative impacts on people living and working nearby by narrowing pavements, interfering with paths and cycleways and reducing parking spaces for residents.

It also criticised the council issuing consent for street table licenses “until further notice”.

The group said: “Such ill-defined parameters for occasional use cannot be right.

“It creates uncertainty.

“The Cockburn believes that all occasional licenses or variances granted under the business recovery programme must be time-limited and subject to open review.”

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