Traders face pitch battle to remain on High Street

Market Trader Stalls on the Royal Mile. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Market Trader Stalls on the Royal Mile. Picture: Ian Georgeson

MARKET sellers claim street trading faces being “eradicated” after city councillors refused to allow stalls to return to the Royal Mile.

Members of the City of Edinburgh Council’s Regulatory Committee backed a recommendation by officers to halt four market spots being restored outside the City Chambers on the High Street. The four stances were temporarily withdrawn in the first half of 2017 while work was carried out.

It is also expected that the four remaining trading spots will be axed when the adjacent council building is handed over to the Chris Stewart Group on a long lease later this year.

Members of the committee
rejected an amendment by Cllr Alex Staniforth which called for the four pitches to be restored on a temporary basis.

Cllr Staniforth labelled claims by council officers that market stalls detract from the city’s World Heritage status as “totally unfounded”.

He added: “This city has a long heritage of street trading. It benefits our World Heritage status that we have street traders and rather than detract from it, I think it enriches it.

“I reject the idea that the Royal Mile is better if it is only open to big developers and development.”

Cllr Cameron Rose, who voted against the stances being reinstated, said the process had created “an injustice” before a decision is taken next month on the overall operation of the High Street.

He added: “This is clearly a mess.”

Chandra Mather has been selling designer jewellery on the Royal Mile for 22 years.

Speaking on behalf of 
traders, she said: “The Tron Kirk has shut and there are no other places for people to trade.

“The High Street has had traders on it for hundreds of years, these stances have existed for 30 years – to eradicate them surely needs more discussion at this level.”

The city council has disposed of its property, 329 High Street, between the City Chambers and the Real Mary King’s Close, where the four remaining market spaces are located. The council believes that the new occupiers will not wish to have market stalls adjacent to the building. There are two other stances at Hunter Square for street traders.

Ms Mather added: “It seems quite clear that if that has gone to a private partner, it seems very likely that those stances will have to be moved.”

Andrew Mitchell, the council’s regulatory services manager, said the trading stalls were “not particularly pretty” and indicated that the licensing department receives around three to four applications for each stance.

He added: “Increasingly, the traditional spots for street trading are becoming unviable as buildings become developed and people who develop them do not want street trading outside them.

“The department routinely receives complaints from other businesses that make it perfectly clear they do not want any street trading on the High Street.”

The committee agreed not to reinstate the trading stances on the High Street.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Mather said: “Today is a sad day for street trading.”

A Council spokesperson said: “The High Street is an important civic space within the city and as it continues to develop it is necessary to review the way in which the Council manages street traders in the area. Unfortunately demand outstrips the limited space available here.

“Today’s decision by Regulatory Committee to continue with four street trading stances on the High Street supports some temporary street trading. The committee will continue to consider street trading alongside the Council’s Public Spaces Manifesto, and has called for a report exploring ways of balancing street trading with the needs and views of other users of this area. We appreciate the disappointment this may cause for some traders but it is important to point out that traders often also have street trading licenses for elsewhere in the city centre.”