The narrow alleyways off the Royal Mile are as much a part of the city’s heritage as they are useful pedestrian networks, but these side streets also have a reputation for being dirty, smelly, or unsafe.
Twelve Closes, a partnership launched in 2015 by Edinburgh World Heritage, Edinburgh City Council,and Napier University to reinvigorate these alleyways is now under way with the first planning applications submitted.
Work will be done to improve and raise awareness of 12 city-centre closes in the next two years, including creative lighting and artwork to discourage antisocial behaviour.
The project will also identify any management issues associated with each close, such as poor signage and waste management, and consider how any new interventions could help mitigate them.
A key aim is to make closes more interesting, attractive and visible in an effort to increase footfall, in turn making the streets feel safer and less prone to anti-social activity.
Planning applications are underway for works to Carrubbers Close, Stevenlaws Close and Chessels Court.
Work on this first stage was initially planned to finish in Autumn 2018, but the project has been delayed by about a year.
“The project has been delayed due to its complexity, and the fact that we are working with a number of partners including the City Council and Napier University, as well local residents and businesses to get to the right solution for each close,” said Nicholas Hotham of Edinburgh World Heritage.
“This is also the first time something like this has been tried in Edinburgh, which inevitably slows things down. As we move forward with the other closes, we can expect things to move faster.”
The next stage of the project will include Fountain Close, Riddles Close and Fleshmarket Close.
Edinburgh World Heritage has been working in consultation with local residents and business owners after securing £60,000 of funding.
The third round of works will take place in Trunks Close, Bakehouse Close and Crightons Close, before the final stage of Lady Stairs Close/Wardrops Court, North Grays Close, and Old Playhouse Close.
As a partner in the project, the City of Edinburgh Council will lead the clean-up of the closes and the installation of any new artwork or other features.
The council will then take responsibility for management and maintenance of the closes once the work is finished.
Funding of up to £60,000 per close has been secured by Edinburgh World Heritage, with contributions in kind from the council and Napier University.
“We’re excited that plans for the first three of our Twelve Closes have now been submitted for approval, Mr Hotham said. “Depending on when we receive approval work should start early Autumn.”
There are a total of 73 closes and wynds along the Royal Mile. Records show them in existence as far back as the middle ages, with Stevenlaw’s close dating from 1210 AD.