Council unveils £2.4m fund to aid businesses during tram extension

The council plans to extend the existing tram line down to Newhaven.
The council plans to extend the existing tram line down to Newhaven.
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COUNCIL chiefs have unveiled a £2.4 million package of support for local businesses during construction of the proposed tram extension.

It includes a £500,000 fund to help traders with short-term cash flow; strategically located logistics hubs to store goods short-term if delivery lorries cannot reach shops; local discount schemes - and free window-cleaning.

Other measures include ensuring multiple crossings for pedestrians and cyclists; temporary parking areas on different parts of the site as work progresses; and guides to give local advice and assistance, such as help for those with impaired mobility.

And the council is also proposing a £100,000 business skills development fund and a business development champion; a £100,000 fund for local artists and festivals; “open for business” campaigns; maps and signage; and market nights and shopping festivals.

The free window cleaning is part of a £500,000 investment to keep the area attractive with regular window and facade cleaning for worksite-facing businesses and a fund to pay for facade improvements.

Almost 500 businesses along the route are being emailed and asked for their views in a consultation on the proposals.

The council is also in talks with the rates assessor on a potential business rates reduction scheme for affected traders, though many of them do not pay rates because of the Scottish Government’s small business support scheme.

The £165m project to take the trams from the current end of the route at York Place down Leith Walk and onto Newhaven is due for final approval by councillors before the end of the year.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “If the project goes ahead, supporting businesses along the route, both during and after construction works, will be a top priority.

“The range of measures we would put in place if the project gets the green light should cater to everyone’s needs as effectively as possible.

“Our key aim is to make sure the whole area stays as vibrant and accessible as possible, not just during but also beyond the essential construction phase.

“Plans for taking Trams to Newhaven continue to take shape and we’re hugely indebted to businesses, residents and interested organisations for all their help in developing the proposals.”

Garry Clark, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said there was “a lot to welcome” in the proposed package.

He said: “Businesses in Leith and along the route will have their say on it, making clear which parts they favour and which parts could do with some bolstering.

“The £500,000 business continuity fund will be an important part of the package as businesses come to grips with the disruption that will inevitably take place. I hope there will be some flexibility so that if that fund needed more money it could perhaps be found from other parts of the package.”

Mr Clark also welcomed the business champion idea, saying the person appointed could give traders help for the longer term as well as immediate problems.