Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Plans for Edinburgh's Princes Street to become a food street

Princes Street Image copyright Google

Food and drink outlets could replace the current retail shops on Edinburgh's Princes Street under new plans to help the thoroughfare "move with the times".

The city council is to launch a public consultation on Friday to ask them for their thoughts on altering the authority's strict planning guidance.

The plan is to make it "more flexible" for different types of businesses to take on premises along Princes Street.

The consultation will run until 20 September.

Currently it is quite a complicated process for outlets on Princes Street to change to being food outlets.

Under these plans that process would be made a lot easier so that the street could move away from clothing shops and into restaurants.

'Continue to evolve'

With the St James Centre set to reopen next year in the east end of the city centre, property experts have identified at least 13 Princes Street stores they believe could quit the famous street including New Look, Zara and River Island.

Coupled with last year's closure of House of Fraser at the West End and a difficult retail climate, the council is moving to ensure Princes Street "remains vibrant".

The proposal would allow planning permission for change of use to "assembly and leisure" and food and drink trade, "allowing a third of units in each frontage to be in non-shop use" and where shop units have multiple levels, the policy would apply to "the ground floor only".

Neil Gardiner, City of Edinburgh Council's planning convener, said: "Despite pressure from online shopping nationally, Edinburgh has a buoyant retail industry evidenced by the £1bn investment in the Edinburgh St James development due to open in 2020.

"It is important though that we look to the future and regularly review our planning policies to make sure they are flexible enough to move with the times.

"The future of Princes Street is already changing with plans for the £150m Johnnie Walker visitor centre progressing as they received planning approval for their development at the West End.

Princes Street has over time been adaptable - first set out for residential use, over time it emerged as a place for grand hotels and members clubs and shopping.

"With appropriate policies it can continue to evolve to meet changing needs in a way which respects its place in this city."

A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses in Edinburgh said: "Central Edinburgh is still a great retail destination but like many shopping strips, Princess Street has found it tough to fill every unit.

"By loosening planning restrictions, we could see some non-retail businesses, like bars or restaurants, take up some hard-to-fill spaces."

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