Businesses in Edinburgh's Old Town claim street closures caused havoc

OLD Town traders say the council needs to “up its game” over summer street closures in the city centre, claiming visitors thought the barriers meant there was a police incident.

Monday, 30th September 2019, 7:00 am
James McGregor says the council needs to "up its game".

Several streets in the historic heart of the Capital were closed from July 28 until September 1 as part of the Summertime Streets initiative to make it easier and safer for people to walk around.

But traders involved in Original Edinburgh, the project to secure Business Improvement District (BID) status for the Old Town, complained the scheme was badly managed.

They claimed some businesses suffered “significant loss of revenue” and the street closures made it more difficult to have their waste collected.

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James McGregor, owner of the Royal McGregor Whisky Bar and Restaurant, and chair of the Original Edinburgh steering group said: “I’ve been running businesses in the Old Town for 20 years, and we’re all acutely aware of the need to manage our public space, especially during festival time, for safety and to maximise the experience for our visitors. However, the way in which the Summertime Streets policy was delivered this year caused havoc for many local traders and residents alike.

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“We understand the need to try new initiatives, but it needs to be delivered properly and in consultation with local residents and businesses.

“If the council wants to continue with this policy, it needs to really up its game.”

Transport and environment convener Lesley Macinnes said changes were made to the scheme during the five weeks of operation based on feedback.

And she said the council wanted to hear people’s views ahead of a report being discussed at committee.

She said: “Summertime Streets is all about creating a more welcoming, relaxed atmosphere for everyone enjoying the delights of the Old Town during the busy festival period. Restricting traffic meant we could reduce the pressure caused by increased footfall, making it easier to walk around while maintaining access for residents and the emergency services.

“This was the first time there had been such a major transformation in the Old Town at this time of year so it’s inevitable there will have been teething issues. Learning what worked well and what can be improved is key to any new project.”