- Published: 28 September 2014 28 September 2014
After months of rumour, plans by J D Wetherspoon for a super-pub are official. Elspeth Wills reports on what might be in store for Victoria Street and the wider Grassmarket area.
J D Wetherspoon have applied for planning permission to develop the shell of the fire damaged Khushi’s restaurant in the former church, with an additional top-storey and roof garden. Whilst there are no details of the size or nature of their envisaged clientele, their plans are very professional with lots of cuddly words like ‘family friendly’ and ‘quality standards’ to lure the unwary reader.
Think for a minute of the implications for local residents. After battling for many years the Grassmarket Residents’ Association (GRASS) secured recognition that the locality is an area of overprovision, with respect to the number of licensed outlets. This was reaffirmed in the recent licensing review. There may be a problem, however, as there is a long standing existing licence for the premises which Wetherspoon’s may be banking on.
However well managed, a Wetherspoon’s can only increase the area’s reputation for cheap drink and partying with all the attendant littering, vandalism, noise, rowdiness and unacceptable behaviour.
This is a serious set-back for a neighbourhood whose residents and many of whose businesses have invested a great deal of effort in recent years in improving the character of the area.
Unlike many city centre locations Victoria Street is in part-residential and the opening of a major drinks outlet can only affect the quality of local people’s lives adversely. It is not just the late-night drinking culture. The volume of tourists already makes the pavements almost impassable at times. Victoria Street is essentially a canyon in terms of noise bouncing off the walls. Its steep, curving, narrow roadway regularly leads to traffic congestion. As there is no waiting area for taxis dispersal at closing time will result in an increase in anti-social behaviour in the Grassmarket adding to the noise and litter from late night fast food outlets. Early morning noise will also increase given the reputation of Wetherspoon’s breakfasts as a hangover cure.
Many people feel powerless in the face of such a mighty operator and do nothing – ‘what’s the point of objecting as we can’t stop them’. But maybe we can. A campaign by local residents and businesses led to the Council recently rejecting Wetherspoon’s plans to turn Rose St Chapel into a super-pub on the grounds of the adverse impact on local amenity.
GRASS and local residents have already registered objections to the plans. If you want to join us, take action now: the closing date for comments is 3pm on Friday 3rd October.
Check out the Edinburgh Council Planning Portal for detailed plans – the reference numbers are 14/03524FUL and 14/03525/LBC or search under 9 Victoria Street.
(Elspeth Wills is a committee member of Grassmarket Residents’ Association and a member of EOTDT.)