Council unveils help for Edinburgh businesses hit by tram works

Work on Leith Walk during the original tram project
Work on Leith Walk during the original tram project
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COUNCIL chiefs today unveiled details of how they plan to support local businesses during construction of the proposed tram extension.

The £2.4 million package includes a £500,000 fund to help businesses with short-term cash flow issues, strategically located logistics hubs to store goods short-term if delivery lorries cannot reach shops, local discount schemes - and free window-cleaning.

The plans - based on feedback from traders and members of the public - also propose promotional campaigns, ensuring multiple crossings for pedestrians and cyclists and temporary parking areas on different parts of the site as work progresses.

A consultation on the proposed measures beginning next week will ask businesses along the route for their comments.

The council said the support was designed to maintain the vibrancy, desirability and accessibility of Leith and neighbouring communities during construction.

Some measures have been incorporated in the contractor’s work package and will be paid for by the council as part of the overall project budget.

These include the logistics hubs for local distribution; the temporary parking arrangements; wayfinding support, such as signage, maps and multiple crossing points for pedestrians and cyclists through the worksite; and an Open for Business promotional campaign.

The rest of the measures are:

- A business continuity fund of £500,000 to help businesses with short-term cash flow issues

- Investment of £500,000 to keep the area attractive with regular window and facade cleaning for worksite-facing businesses and a fund to pay for facade improvements or repairs

- On-street guides / customer service personnel costing £400,000 to provide local advice and assistance, such as help for those with impaired mobility

- Business skills development with a £100,000 fund for things like website design and development, email marketing, social media best practice

- A council-funded Business Development Champion to help businesses build plan for the years ahead

- A £100,000 fund to invest in the arts during construction, supporting local arts groups, artists and festivals

- Market nights and shopping festivals with a budget of £100,000

- A wider Open for Business campaign costing £100,000, which could include a promotional campaign via web, email and social media, wider wayfinding across the city for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, and advertising banners on key approaches

- Local discount / voucher scheme with an investment of £50,000

- Targeted deliveries with £25,000 funding for arrangements like the use of cargo bikes and an app to act as a one-stop shop for people who want to shop local and arrange delivery of their goods

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

“From next week, we are inviting businesses’ views on a raft of business support proposals through our online consultation. 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.

“We were delighted with the significant level of engagement and feedback in the first phase of public consultation in the spring. We then held a series of very useful workshops to focus on key points brought up during that six-week consultation process.

“The project team is currently using all the feedback to refine the plans ahead of further engagement at the end of next month. This will feed into the final business case going before councillors at the end of the year.”

The consultation, focused on almost 500 businesses along the route, will run from September 3-30.