Councillors on the city council’s development management sub-committee have called for more information on the Royal Mile scheme and to see the site for themselves after fears were raised over noise disruption to neighbouring residents.
Officers had recommended that councillors reject the proposals – but some spoke out in support of the plans.
If approved, the former city council Royal Mile Nursery, located between the High Street and Cockburn Street, would be adapted for 13 wooden market stalls in the former playground courtyard.
The plans are being tabled by traders who formally operated at the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile, before the council closed the market to open a visitor centre. Applicants believe the plans are a “direct replacement” to the former Tron market. The “small street market” will also include an indoor cafe with a seating area, as well as a small office and staff area and toilets.
Planning officers told councillors that the scheme could “potentially increase footfall and disturbance” to nearby residents on both the Royal Mile and Cockburn Street.
Officers added: “Thirteen timber market stalls would have a detrimental impact on the character of the area.
“We didn’t feel it was something we can control through conditions that we would be satisfied we could control the potential problems. We cannot restrict the people using that and we cannot restrict noise in terms of people’s voices.”
Cllr Chas Booth pointed out that environmental health officers had said the problems could be offset through conditions imposed on the applicant – but planning officers disagreed.
Cllr Alex Staniforth highlighted a potential hypocrisy of allowing markets to set up shop during the summer and festive periods, but not in this case.
He said: “I’m a little puzzled by the fact this would be considered detrimental to the character of the Old Town and the World Heritage site, given that the Old Town is traditionally a place of markets – so historically I don’t see how it conflicts.
“Every Christmas we fill the World Heritage site with wooden huts and also every August.”
But Cllr Jo Mowat spoke out on behalf of local residents who were concerned about the proposals.
She said: “That back of their building will be their oasis from noise because the front of their buildings will be noisy. If you materially change a rear outlook, that has an impact on people who are then stuck in buildings which are potentially noisy on both sides.”
Cllr Cameron Rose said he believed the proposals would “increase the character” of the area – but planning convener Cllr Neil Gardiner said the courtyard could be “enhanced as a quieter place for contemplation in the longer-term”.
He added: “I think there’s a point that these properties may be under Airbnb usage currently. By making a market in this back court, my aspiration would be to increase the residential population in the city centre.
“The city centre should be for all kinds of usage. I think this could be detrimental to that over-riding concern.”
The applicant could not be reached for comment.