A real sett-to over cobbles on the city streets - David Alexander

One of the benefits of being a householder in Edinburgh is the ability to live on the edge of the city centre and within a short walk of its many amenities, yet still enjoy a home environment that’s as quiet as the suburbs.

Though it isn’t always the case. Some residents on the north-west edge of the central area and in neighbouring Stockbridge, have called for their streets to be laid with tarmac because of increased noise from passing cars and vans on the existing cobbled setts.

In response, other citizens (though not necessarily living in the affected locations) have called for the cobbles to be retained on the basis that these are part and parcel of the capital’s heritage.

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They also point out that the current residents must have been aware of the effect on rubber tyres running on cobbles when they purchased their properties. After all isn’t caveat emptor – “let the buyer beware” – one of the first laws of property?

But the residents also surely have a point. Many of the properties will have been bought at a time when traffic was less dense, since when the flow of both private and commercial vehicles has increased, not just through exponential growth, but as a result of council-inspired road restrictions which have turned

more local streets into “rat runs”.

And, one might ask, is the tarmacking of a few residential side streets really going to diminish the heritage of Edinburgh and bring hurt to the tourist economy of the city? Perhaps not.

From a purely professional point of view there is also an issue of the relation of the cobbles to property values.

The locations in question have, in my experience, always been much in demand but on those rare occasions when the market slips back, and there are less buyers around, traffic noise could be a deal breaker.

Conversely, on some of the streets at least, the cobbled setts seem to be a natural fit with the Georgian and Regency homes; this adds to the “kerb appeal” of these properties – especially among buyers from beyond Scotland who are bowled over by such unique settings – and by implication

enhances their value.

This added dimension has probably complicated the matter further rather than simplifying it but is nevertheless worth noting. Anyway, when it comes to Edinburgh and conservation there never are easy answers.

By the time this article comes off the press the circus will be in the process of leaving town. By that I mean Cop26, which has put Glasgow on the world stage for the past 12 days. During that time the city has paid host to none other than Presidents Biden and Macron, Chancellor Merkel, our very own Boris and a wee Swedish lassie who seems to have rock star appeal even though she was certainly never

part of ABBA.

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Before the circus set up tent the big story was about accommodation and the shortage thereof, given that there was to be an estimated 30,000 arrivals during the period of the conference. Shortages inevitably lead to higher costs and there was genuine concern about levels of affordability among official delegates and supplementary campaigners from Third World countries.

But it wasn’t just poorer visitors who were adversely affected. An American delegate – a company director - was effectively “gazumped” when the landlord of the rental property he had booked realised, one assumes in retrospect, that it coincided with Cop26 and demanded more money on the basis that this was a unique occasion on which he did not wish to miss out. The delegate refused – rightly in my opinion - to pay extra and, fortunately, was able to find alternative accommodation.

OK, it may have been a minor issue in the great scheme of Cop26 but I can’t help feeling this sort of thing gives our sector a bad name, especially at a time when landlords (the vast majority of whom are decent people) find themselves under fire for the cost and availability of rental accommodation – a situation not of their own making.

This particular landlord may not have acted illegally but whatever happened to “My word is my bond”?

David Alexander is managing director of DJ Alexander



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