Chiefs flag up High Street ban

Published Date: 27 September 2010
City Council Reporter

A CRACKDOWN on unsightly shop signs is to get under way as part of the city council’s attempts to improve the appearance of the historic Royal Mile.

City council chiefs have already launched a blitz on advertising boards in the first stage of their clean-up of the thoroughfare. But they are now setting their sights on shop signs, poster advertising and flags.

They currently have little power to force a company to change its signage or advertising because neither requires planning consent. But they are now applying to the Scottish Government for a special “regulation 11 direction order” that will allow them to bring about change by ensuring that all signage or advertising requires planning permission.

Dave Anderson, director of the council’s city development department, said: “A particular issue in Edinburgh’s conservation areas is disproportionately large signs made of synthetic materials and very large lettering, often stuck over the original timber or stone fascia.

“This obscures the architectural detailing and alters the proportions of the shopfront, having a dominating and detrimental impact. There are also instances of large signs filling an entire shopfront window, or placed vertically on the uprights of the shopfront.”

Under the new regulations the council would be able to control the size, materials and position of shopfront advertisements and guard against inappropriate use.

The Royal Mile is to be used as a pilot project after being chosen because of its “architectural and historic value” and because it is a “fundamental component of Edinburgh’s World Heritage site”.

Mr Anderson said: “This project will tie in with other council initiatives to improve the pedestrian and shopping environment on the Royal Mile.”

It is estimated that around 18 of the 141 commercial units would have to remove inappropriate signage if the Scottish Government gives the council the extra powers. New applications would then all require planning consent.

If the scheme is successful in bringing about an improvement on the Royal Mile, it could be rolled out to other conservation areas. However, Julie Logan, chair of the Old Town Community Council, believes a much wider improvement of the Royal Mile is needed.

She said: “It is not just about the signs, it’s about the general street clutter and the choice of shops. You have tartan tat and takeaways and that is it. With the A-boards, whilst they have cleared some, there is still a significant amount of clutter.”

A council spokesman said: “The Royal Mile acts as a shop window to the Old Town and to Edinburgh as a whole, so we must ensure we do everything in our power to preserve its historic character and appeal.”

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