At our meeting on 27 February, the Planning Committee agreed to relax planning policy for Princes Street to allow cafes and restaurants to open up alongside the shops to make it more of a destination. A more flexible approach to Shandwick Place, Castle Street, and Queensferry Street has also been agreed. Shopping will always be one of the main reasons why people want to be in the city centre but by allowing more cafes and restaurants in certain areas it will encourage more people to spend time enjoying the spectacular views and unique atmosphere. Along with new shops opening, the tram set to run, and large parts of George Street being given to pedestrians, it is an exciting time for our city centre and the recent launch of the ‘This is Edinburgh’ promotional campaign will help increase footfall in the area.
Edinburgh Street Design Guidance
An attractive environment also helps to make a successful place and the Council is committed to providing high quality streets, pavements and public spaces. The Planning Committee agreed that consultation should soon start on our new Edinburgh Street Design Guidance. The draft guidance is clear that people should be put before cars when new streets are designed or existing streets are changed. Edinburgh has been at the forefront of street design since the 1990s and it will be interesting to hear your views on our latest proposals.
The Forth Bridge
The progress of the nomination to make The Forth Bridge a world heritage site was also reported to the Committee. It will not be until the summer of 2015 that we find out if the bid has been successful but it was encouraging to see how far it has already come.
It’s now almost a year since the Council set out how we would deal with ‘party flats’. Party flats being property or properties occupied by a number of unrelated people on holiday for ‘stag’ or ‘hen’ parties or where properties are used for groups attending large sporting/entertainment events. In that time, we have served a number of enforcement notices instructing landlords to remove these unauthorised uses and we are currently investigating other cases. Whilst they may be well intended, these flats can cause a nuisance to neighbours and result in serious safety issues.
You can get more advice in our Guidance for Businesses document with party flats (or ‘short stay commercial leisure apartments’) covered on page 6. If you are considering letting out a property for this purpose, or are concerned about whether an unauthorised party flat is operating in your area, then please read the guidance and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice.
At our meeting on 5 December, the Planning Committee agreed new guidance for Tollcross which will guide the type of uses that will be supported in the main shopping area. As well as shops, we will support other complementary uses such as estate agents, cafes or restaurants in most parts of the town centre. Although we still want a strong retail offer, by being open to other uses that attract people to the area we hope to enhance the vitality and vibrancy of Tollcross.
The Council is committed to ensuring that our town centres serve those who live, work, visit and shop and will continue to thrive in the future. We now plan to look closely at all the other town centres in a similar way over the next couple of years.
Guidance to support the development of ‘The Edinburgh Bioquarter’ on land next to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was also agreed by the Committee. The aim is that the area will become a top 10 global centre of excellence for life sciences with the potential to create a significant number of jobs. The guidance sets out an exciting vision for the creation of a mixed use, urban quarter which protects and enhances the landscape setting of the city. Consultation on the detailed draft masterplan for the area will take place over the coming months.
The Committee also agreed revised guidance on adverts including the use of digital advertising. This is an emerging issue with media companies keen to make adverts time specific and able to be frequently changed and managed remotely. However, it is important that digital advertising does not have an adverse impact on public safety or the amenity of nearby residents or special places such as the World Heritage Site. You can read the all the Planning Committee reports in full online.
We are about to start a review of our conservation area character appraisals. The appraisals help us, community and amenity groups, householders, developers and others understand what makes a conservation area special, and how change in the area can be managed sensitively.
With some of our current appraisals around 15 years old, changes over time, development pressures, and changing priorities have made a fresh look at the appraisals essential. Feedback has also shown that the format of the appraisals could be improved to make them more user-friendly and focus more on analysis rather than description – emphasising that understanding the area is important. We will be reviewing six conservation areas over the next two years, with the initial priorities being:
The first area to be reviewed will be The Grange. We are working in partnership with the Grange Association to understand the changes that have taken place in the area since the last appraisal and what we can learn from this. At the same time, Architectural Conservation MSc students from the University of Edinburgh are assessing the area’s character and development and will be sharing their results with us over the next few months.
Watch this space – we’ll be seeking views from the community and other stakeholders as the draft Grange appraisal and new format are developed. The more feedback we receive, the better and more fit-for-purpose the new appraisals will be.