FOR years its reputation has been soured as a magnet for rowdy sports fans and raucous stag and hen parties.
But now a major overhaul of Edinburgh’s Rose Street is being planned in an attempt to turn it into a destination to rival the likes of London’s Carnaby Street – offering a tempting mix of pavement cafes, street entertainment and shops.
The Scotsman can reveal that £1 million is to be spent to transform the “forgotten” thoroughfare into a cosmopolitan avenue offering festival street theatre and new works of art, floral displays and market stalls. Council chiefs have pledged to enforce a strict traffic ban and to help “declutter” the area, while new welcome signs, flag displays and lighting displays are being planned to help bring it to life.
The Prince of Wales’s own architectural foundation, which was called in last year to help revive Rose Street’s fortunes, has recommended the city makes it a bohemian “destination” with a programme of special events focused on bringing a string of current “dead areas” to life.
Existing businesses will be encouraged to “spill out” into the street, while buskers will be encouraged to perform in designated areas. Fan zones are to be set up during major sporting events such as rugby’s Six Nations tournament, while beer festivals and food stalls are also being explored.
Business group Essential Edinburgh, which is spearheading the project, has acknowledged that the street is regularly bypassed by shoppers and visitors, has become too clogged with traffic and feels “down at heel” in comparison with its George Street neighbour. Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said: “We want it to be more like Carnaby Street in London, with pavement cafes extended out into the street, live music and more of an effort made to attract people into the street, by brightening up the gable ends of buildings and putting up flags and bunting.
“Rose Street has changed a lot over the years with new restaurants and independent shops opening, but it is still a bit down at heel and feels a bit unloved.
“There are cars and vans in there all the time, damaging street furniture, and clogging up the street. We believe tangible improvements could be made by the summer, such as regular markets, new events and festival performances.”
The group has pledged that the first improvements will be in place by the summer, when celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is expected to open an Italian restaurant on Rose Street, as part of the new-look Assembly Rooms, due to be unveiled in time for the Fringe.
The council, which is matching Essential Edinburgh’s £300,000 grant, has backed plans in principle to close off part of George Street to traffic to allow the Assembly Rooms to spill out into the middle of the thoroughfare.
The remainder of the funding for the revamp is coming from retailer Primark, as a condition of the planning approval for its new city centre store.
The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment was set up by Prince Charles in 1998 to help influence design and planning of new communities and existing towns and cities.
Its report for Essential Edinburgh said it was “time for a clear-out” of Rose Street, with poor traffic management and enforcement of a traffic ban the biggest single issue that its talks with businesses and other interest groups threw up.
Its report states: “It creates the perception of Rose Street as an alleyway or service lane. It causes damage to street furniture, street surfaces and buildings.”
Tom Buchanan, the council’s economic development leader, said: “Rose Street is a pretty tired-looking place at the moment, but we think there is a lot that could be done to make it and surrounding lanes more attractive. A lot of people bypass it at the moment and there’s nothing to draw you into it.”