City signs up to Primark plan

PRIMARK is set to win permission for two giant signs above its new Princes Street store, despite the fact they will be visible from Edinburgh Castle.

The retail giant has applied to put up three large raised signs outside the front of the store on Princes Street, and three more at the back entrance on Rose Street.

Council officials have said they are willing to allow the signs, despite the fact that, because they are above street level and can be seen from the Castle, they are contrary to planning policies.

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However, councillors have been advised to refuse permission for them to be lit in blue and green, as they would have too great an impact on the area.

The arrival of Primark has been seen as a potential boost for the flagging retail fortunes of Princes Street, but there is concern that the financial benefits have led to concerns about the impact of the development being overlooked.

The proposals sparked objection from heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association, and director Marion Williams said it would be disappointing if the council was to break its own guidelines.

"It will be a disappointment if they go against their own policies, although it would not be the first time," she said.

"Signage is becoming a big problem on Princes Street and George Street and it seems to be because so many exceptions are being made to the rules.

"Laura Ashley are looking to put up a big illuminated sign on George Street, and again that is against policy, but it may well be approved to try and encourage business.

"It does seem to be the case that economic developments have the upper hand and we wind up with these huge signs as a consequence. If the council have a policy then they should stick to it."

Head of planning, John Bury, said: "The proposals represent a justifiable breach of the non-statutory guidelines with respect to the high-level signage and illumination colour upon the Rose Street and ground-floor storey of the Princes Street elevations. However, the illumination of the high-level signage on the Princes Street elevation represents an unjustifiable breach of the guidelines and is unacceptable."

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The Primark store on Princes Street will be a "flagship" branch for the company, which is also planning to open a major store at the Gyle and is developing a third store in Livingston.

The city centre store is expected to create up to 600 jobs and is scheduled to open in 2012.

A Primark spokesman said: "We respect Princes Street's unique heritage and while we would prefer to have illuminated signs we are very happy to take on board the council's views."