String of pearls: 'Most famous street overdue good news'

Princes Street has had a pretty wretched couple of years after taking the brunt of two calamities.

When it was closed to traffic to accommodate the tram works in February last year, everyone knew it was in for a rough time. In the event, many who battled past the obstacles to reach the shops were delighted by how pleasant the street was when free of traffic - but that unexpected calm was also due to customers turning elsewhere in their droves.

And, like every other high street in the UK, the recession has taken its toll.

So our most famous street is long overdue some good news.

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The go-ahead for a massive new Primark store and the development of luxury flats in currently empty upper floors overlooking The Mound is a belated sign that there may yet be life in the city council's seemingly dormant "string of pearls" vision. For those who have forgotten, the idea is that each block of Princes Street could be developed over time into a "pearl" or attraction in its own right.

Experience in London and Bristol suggests the arrival of a flagship Primark store draws enough shoppers to revitalise the surrounding area, attracting other big name retailers. That would be one "pearl".

The hope, clearly, is that others will follow.

Signs of that happening as the hoped-for economic recovery kicks in would dampen the calls for a more radical civic approach to the future of Princes Street.

Keeping tidy

THE Queen - if you believe Billy Connolly - thinks that the world smells of fresh paint, thanks to all the preparatory work done ahead of any visit she makes.

As we reveal today, the Pope's abiding olfactory memory of his trip to Edinburgh may well be a hint of newly-laid tarmac.

The city council hasn't exactly admitted that the reason it spent 20,000 fixing a small stretch of road in Morningside is because Pope Benedict XVI's tour will take him there, to visit the home of Cardinal Keith O'Brien.

A few local residents think it is a waste of money, while many more will wish the same attention to detail was being spent elsewhere, in their own neighbourhoods.

But it is worth keeping in mind that Edinburgh is going to be on the global stage on September 16, with the world's cameras focused on us. Who doesn't tidy up their front room a bit if someone important is coming to visit?