Queensferry High Street needs town centre status to protect it

Edinburgh Council is being urged to officially recognise Queensferry as a town centre amid concerns over the “death of the high street” through retail space being stripped out.
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Other than the city centre, the capital has nine town centres but the historic Royal Burgh is not currently on the list, meaning it’s not afforded the same protections in planning policies and resource allocations set by the local authority.

Now a councillor wants to see the area join the likes of Corstorphine, Leith Walk and Portobello by gaining official status as a shopping centre to help the high street bounce back from the cost of living crisis and avoid commercial units being lost.

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Euan Hyslop said the sight of vacant shop fronts on the high street was “upsetting” and “pretty worrying”.

Councillor Hyslop and local Councillor Norrie Work on the High Street.Councillor Hyslop and local Councillor Norrie Work on the High Street.
Councillor Hyslop and local Councillor Norrie Work on the High Street.

The SNP group’s fair work and economy spokesperson, who is also a small business owner, said: “Our high streets are feeling the bite of the cost of living crisis.

“Queensferry High Street isn’t considered to be a town centre in planning terms – it beggars belief, a historic Royal Burgh that used to be part of West Lothian. I know a lot of Queensferry folk who still feel like part of West Lothian and they’re not given the respect they deserve as part of the City of Edinburgh local authority area.

“If there’s any evidence of that it’s this; the authority does not designate Queensferry as a town and doesn’t give the high street the same protections in policy terms for its retail use.”

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Cllr Hyslop explained planning status as a town centre would help to ensure any bids to convert vacant businesses units into other uses such as housing, which he said would “deplete the retail nature of the high street”, would not get approval.

“There’s nothing stopping someone coming in and changing them to some other use,” he said. “I think that because of the challenges facing small businesses there’s every chance that will happen and long-term Queensferry High Street will lose the retail function that is protected for other town centres.

“I think that’s a crying shame because it’s a fantastic town centre – the jewel in the crown of our town centres – and it deserves to be protected.

“It’s also the town centre for a lot of rural west Edinburgh. This idea that our services are within a 15 minute bike ride or walk – there are a lot of communities in west Edinburgh that rely on Queensferry as their local town centre so if the high street loses that function they could have to travel significantly further to access a town centre, driving more people online and further exacerbating the death of the high street.”

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He added during discussions to appoint a new contractor to deliver Edinburgh’s Christmas festival Queensferry was initially absent from discussions around events and decorations due to not being an official town centre.

He continued: “My understanding is it’s something to do with the number of shops, so they did a retail assessment and counted the number of shops and retail uses.

“Most of the other high street have more shops, but that shouldn’t be the only consideration. Because there’s less shops, arguably there should be more protection for shops that are there.”

Cllr Hyslop tabled a motion at the council meeting on Thursday calling on officials to report back on the process for “officially designating Queensferry High Street and Local Centre as an official Town Centre in Planning Terms”.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​