Edinburgh street traders given hope to continue on High Street after plea to councillors
COUNCIL officials will investigate reinstating four market stalls outside the customer hub on the High Street after traders pleaded with councillors to let them continue earning a living.
Edinburgh City Council’s regulatory committee agreed to “instruct officers” to speak with Visit Scotland, who now use part of 249 High Street, whether they would object to four stances being reinstated – after they were suspended two and a half years ago “for no apparent reason”.
Traders addressed the committee as the remaining four stances on the High Street were suspended in order for building work to take place to 329 High Street. The former council building is set to become holiday accommodation – with officials making clear the developers do not want traders outside their new premises.
The council’s regulatory services manager, Andrew Mitchell, said: “On the High Street, as developments have taken place, the number of stalls has fallen. There continues to be pressure when buildings are bought, the people who redevelop them would prefer not to have street trading outside them.
“We know the people who will be occupying 329 High Street are not keen on having street trading. The reality is the demand for street trading far outstrips the space available.”
Gerald Gapinsk, representing street traders, pleaded with councillors to be allowed to operate on the High Street, and said he has consulted with Edinburgh World Heritage about making the street trading stances a more attractive offer for the city.
He said: “The council has recommended that there be no stalls on the High Street – even though there has been street trading operating there for up to the last 20 years. That would effectively end street trading on the High Street.
“The gravity of that situation and the decision you make has a huge impact on the livelihoods of those I think should still be encouraged to work, particularly in this economic climate of five shops a week closing on Scotland’s high streets.”
He added: “We’re about high quality goods and crafts – many of which are made in this very city. The four stalls at the bottom of the High Street have been closed for the last two and a half years for no apparent reason.
“I would hope you would support small, independent local businesses. We’ve just trying to make a living, we want to continue making a living.”
Mr Gapinsk called for the four stances outside 329 High Street not to be “suspended after the building works are completed for no justifiable reason” and also asked for the four lost stances to be relocated to outside 249 High Street.
Mr Mitchell confirmed that there was no reason why the four stances cannot be relocated back to outside the customer hub at 249 High Street – although Visit Scotland has not been consulted about any proposals.
Cllr Neil Ross said: “It sounds to me as though there is a freedom to reintroduce stances outside 249 if we choose to do so.”
Cllr Susan Rae called for the four stances to be reintroduced immediately.
She said: “The contribution they make to the city is a lot more than selling artisan goods.
“I would like to move that we reinstate those stalls now.”
But regulatory convener, Cllr Cathy Fullerton put forward an amendment, agreed by the committee, that will “instruct officers to speak to Visit Scotland in relation to any objections they may have to four stalls being sited at 249 High Street” while a review of the management options for Hunter Square during the August festivals will also be drawn up.