We noted at last month’s meeting that plans for closure of the lower High Street to all vehicles except public buses were to be advertised and agreed to seek to engage with the City of Edinburgh Council on this issue, making the point that there is a balance to be struck between reducing congestion and allowing a reasonable flow of traffic, particularly east-west. The proposals for the lower High Street are part of the Council’s wider Royal Mile Action Plan. At this month’s meeting one of the Council officials responsible for implementing the Plan briefed us on progress in implementing it. There is much in the Plan which the Committee feels deserves support but we explained our reservations about the proposals for the lower High Street. We will continue to engage with the Council on this issue and on the Royal Mile Project more generally. Click for more information about the Royal Mile Action Plan.
Pre-planning consultation has begun on proposals to turn the old Royal High School building into a luxury hotel. This is outside the Old Town but could impact on our area, we will watch developments closely. There is to be a public discussion of the High School building's history, significance and future on Monday 23 February at 6.30pm in St Andrew's & St George's West Church, George Street. The event, organised by the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, is free and all are welcome.
The committee looked at three new planning applications. Two of these were for 6-8 Market Street – the site immediately west of the City Art Centre. The applications are to redevelop this with a seven-storey hotel with commercial use on the ground floor. We plan to comment on, rather than object to, this application. We would be pleased to see this site used and some aspects of the proposal are sympathetic to the surroundings, but others aren't and it is disappointing that there is no residential provision. The third application was for the Police Call Box in West Bow to be converted into a kiosk selling locally produced ice cream. The Committee agreed that this deserved support.
The committee looked at five new planning applications. We will object to one of these: for 25 new rooms at the Carlton Hotel, North Bridge on top of the existing roof. We felt this was inappropriate in the world heritage site and would have an adverse impact on views from Salisbury Crags and Regent Road.
We spent some time discussing another planning application, for small bronze plaques to be installed near the war memorial in front of the City Chambers to remind people to be respectful of the memorial. We understand the plaques are to be engraved "remember" and "respect". We can see why this proposal has been made, although it is sad that it is necessary. But we wonder whether the choice of words will achieve the desired effect. We will not object to the application but we will write to the Council with our concerns.
The Old Town Association committee meets on the first Tuesday of the month. At the November 2014 meeting, as usual, we looked at new planning applications in the Old Town. There were six applications this month, most of them uncontroversial. But the Association will object to an application for an internally illuminated fascia sign and other advertising material at the Pizza Express on the corner of George IV Bridge and Victoria Terrace. Other 'heritage' cities, like York, manage to get companies such as Pizza Express – even McDonald's – to use signage that is in keeping with the surroundings. Why not Edinburgh?