Traders support £3m Southside renovation plan

Steve Hunter believes a revamp of St Patrick Square could boost the area's image
Steve Hunter believes a revamp of St Patrick Square could boost the area's image
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A TRAFFIC island would be transformed into a thriving and active public space that could host events, while a neglected square would be returned to its previous splendour under ambitious multi-million-pound plans to revive Edinburgh’s Southside.

The city council is vying to secure £1 million of lottery funding to help fund £3.2m of improvements to the area around Nicolson Street and Clerk Street.

Among the projects proposed is the transformation of a redundant traffic island at West Crosscauseway – known locally as “The Causey” – into a public space.

St Patrick Square, which is currently closed off to the public, would be redesigned and made more open and accessible under the scheme, while more railings would be introduced and stonework would be repaired.

The proposals have been welcomed by local businesses.

Tom Wilding, manager of The Ale House in Clerk Street, said: “Any investment in the area would be very welcome.

“It depends on what they want to do, though. If it is just a slight improvement then we might not see much of a benefit but as long as they make the area tidier and more attractive then I think people will see it as a good step.”

Lottery funding is seen as central to the “Southside Townscape Heritage Initiative” which, if money can be secured, would also result in a pot of cash that could be used for upgrades and repairs to a series of community buildings.

It follows a similar initiative in Leith that has seen £9m of initiatives to improve buildings and public spaces since 2002.

Community groups around “The Causey” have campaigned for some time to reclaim it for pedestrians and hold events on it and a temporary event was staged there in 2007 as part of the Six Cities Design Festival.

Dave Anderson, director of city development at the council, said: “A number of diverse communities inhabit the hinterland around the Southside and they come together in the shops, cafes and community buildings on Nicolson Street and Buccleuch Street.

“This area has been identified because of its heritage merit and concentration of diverse community groups and community buildings.”

Steve Hunter, manager of Scayles music shop on St Patrick Square, said: “It does look a bit hairy round here. I think people get up to the Royal Mile and think that’s it, there’s nothing more to see up here.

“Hopefully this could change that perception.”

Around £80,000 has already been pledged by the council but it may be able to put up further funding, while grants are expected to be made available by some of the organisations involved.

Councillor Jim Lowrie, the city’s planning leader, said: “If the bid is successful the Townscape Heritage Initiative will deliver considerable benefits through environmental and buildings improvements. ”