Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Plans for continental-style cafes in Princes Street

Princes Street
Image caption Planning rules mean that only shops are currently allowed along Princes Street

Plans to revitalise Edinburgh's city centre with continental-style cafes and restaurants on Princes Street are being considered by councillors.

It is feared shopping alone is no longer enough to draw people onto the street.

The number of people visiting Princes Street has been falling for the last 20 years.

Planning rules currently mean only retail outlets are allowed along the mile-long street.

Councillors will meet on Thursday to make a decision on whether the smallest 25 shop units could be changed into cafes, bars and restaurants with outdoor seating areas on the pavement.

It is hoped a more continental style atmosphere could transform the street's fortunes.

Edinburgh City Council planning convenor, Councillor Ian Perry, told BBC Scotland: "If we look over the last 20 years, the footfall of Princes Street has been declining and it's been declining year on year, even despite the tramworks.

"So what we need to do is revitalise what we are offering in Princes Street. We want to change the retail mix to attract more people in."

With trams due to run along the street from summer next year, new regulations could be in place to allow outdoor dining from then.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said: "Essential Edinburgh are delighted this positive step for Princes Street is being taken.

"For city centres to survive they need to offer a great experience and a row of almost a mile with only shops does not deliver that.

"The chance to break for a chat with coffee or a glass of wine will deliver a much more pleasurable experience and allow the unique and stunning views to be enjoyed.

"It will also allow the street to be used into the evening. With later shop opening and places to eat, Princes St will be an even greater asset for Edinburgh."

Iconic castle

David Birrell, chief executive at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: "This is a great opportunity to boost business in Princes Street by being creative with the mix of food and drink offering to the people of Edinburgh and tourists.

"It is inevitable that the face of Edinburgh's flagship street will change as our culture evolves.

"Currently Princes Street is a shopping street to be proud of and this seems like a great opportunity to enhance the mix with restaurants and bars.

"What other city can offer all this directly opposite an iconic castle?"

Hugh Rutherford, chairman of the Edinburgh Business Forum, said: "Princes Street currently has a strong retail offering with a variety of outlets catering to all needs.

"The opportunity to complement this with quality food and drink establishments is to be welcomed as this with help drive footfall to the city centre and will be instrumental in bringing a new lease of life to this iconic thoroughfare."

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