Stockbridge business owners say over 400 people have signed petition against latest social distancing plans for Edinburgh's high streets

Business owners in Stockbridge say more than 400 people have signed a petition against council plans to temporarily remove parking to aid social distancing in several high streets around Edinburgh.

Detailed plans were unveiled this week to widen pavements, restrict parking and provide more cycleways, with street clutter being removed and bus stops and loading bays relocated.

The shopping areas affected are Stockbridge, Portobello, Morningside and Bruntsfield, Gorgie/Dalry, Great Junction Street, Minto Street, Easter Road, Queensferry and Tollcross.

The local authority has already implemented a range of temporary measures, including segregated cycleways leading to the city's two main hospitals and widened footways in East Princes Street as part of the £5 million Spaces for People funding from The Scottish Government.

Herbie of Edinburgh is one of the businesses in Stockbridge which has received a number of signatures to the petition. Pic: Herbie of Edinburgh Instagram

But a number of business owners fear the plans could impact trade, including several in Stockbridge where footpaths will be widened on both sides of Raeburn Place, Deanhaugh Street and Hamilton Place adjacent to commercial properties.

Roddy Watson, who owns the Gifted gift shop in Raeburn Place in Stockbridge, started a petition on Wednesday against the proposals and estimates he has between 425 and 450 signatures so far - mainly from members of the public.

He says nearly half of his customers are older people and if they want to buy a few gifts they would need the car to do so, and that his business has already suffered during the first part of 2020 because of gas works restricting vehicle access at one end of the road.

Mr Watson said: "We just don't want them (the council) to do it. It's not workable and not necessary because Nicola Sturgeon could soon reduce the distance, and the whole argument here is to create a two metre rule. If it is cut, then it won't be needed and it will be a waste of money.

"I seriously believe our business will struggle and we believe lots of other businesses will struggle too."

Deliveries concern

Herbie of Edinburgh deli shop owner Tannis Todd, also based in Stockbridge, says the petition shows the "strength of feeling" locally about the plans.

She is particularly concerned about the logistics of large lorry deliveries in Cheyne Street, which has been proposed for loading and unloading, as it is narrow with parking on both sides with tight corners - and is very close to homes.

And she fears people coming to Stockbridge to pick up large goods will be put off if parking spaces outside shops are removed, and that folk using their cars to take an animal to the vet or donate clothes to charity shops will struggle to get a space.

Donald Nairn, who runs Toys Galore in Morningside Road, also believes the changes are "futile" because the number of Covid-19 cases has been falling and he feels physical distance may soon be cut to one metre.

He also feels the removal of parking spaces will push people to drive to out of town retail parks with free parking instead of shopping with local, independent businesses.

As a keen cyclist himself, Mr Nairn acknowledges the need for more active travel but says a successful city is one where people and products can move around easily and where everyone can travel regardless of ability.

He added: "Overall, as traders, we feel that very little account has been taken of how we are going to survive this year. We are all tired and exhausted, having tried to keep our businesses functioning through this torrid time.

"It is in nobody’s interest to see Morningside Road hollowed out in the way Princes Street has been, but that will happen if Edinburgh Council makes it impossible for us to trade. Everyone in Edinburgh will be the worse for it."