Edinburgh tramworks: Businesses in Leith’s Bernard Street Leith say they have been ‘forgotten and ‘ignored’

Shopkeepers in Leith’s Bernard Street claim they have been “forgotten” and “ignored” in the revamp of the area for the Capital’s new tramline.

They say the road outside their shops has been used as a “dumping ground” during the construction works for the Trams to Newhaven project. And now they have discovered the new design for the street has no parking or loading bays within easy reach.

Janeanne Gilchrist, of design company Staunch Industries, moved into a shop unit at 19 Bernard Street in 2019 and refurbished the property but says she has been unable to open properly because of the works site immediately outside, with machinery, materials and toilet facilities. “We have been looking to launch our new showroom and gallery space since March 2020 but the outside of our studio became a full dumping ground when the tram works started and it still is,” she said. “There was nothing on the tram project’s map or website about using Bernard Street as dumping ground for all this stuff.”

And now she is angry the redesign of the street will not include any parking or loading bay near the row of shops. “We have been forgotten about,” she said. “They haven’t thought about how businesses are going to get serviced in our street, they just want to turn it into a plaza. The plans show lots of trees and benches, but none of the immediate businesses were consulted. On paper it looks lovely, but it’s not going to work. No-one going to sit out on this side of the street. The wind just hurtles through here – there’s nobody going to be sitting there pretending it’s the riviera.”

And she argues the lack of parking or loading bays will undermine the aim of creating a pleasant pedestrian area. “You can already see it – trucks moving onto pavements, parking on double yellow lines, because everyone is looking to get their products in to be able to function as a business. They’d be better taking it back and amending the design – that happens in most building contracts – and putting in a bay where people can pull in, disabled people can be dropped off and so on.”

And she says if changes are not made to the plans, she will have to reconsider her future. “I’ve had enough – enough waiting, trying to hold my business together while they mess about with ideas out there that don’t work. As it’s going to become difficult to park round here, we have to start thinking whether or not we’re better to just move away now.”

Domenico Crolla, of nearby Pierinos, recently named the Best Fish and Chip Shop in Scotland, echoes the complaints about the way the local shops have been treated during the tramworks. “We’re an established business and we’ve got regular customers so we’ve managed – profits went down, but there are a lot of businesses worse off than us. But to find out there’s no loading or any way people can stop outside our shop is really disappointing. The bottom half of Constitution Street is now probably one of the narrowest roads in Edinburgh, but there’s still parking and they have created loading bays – it’s not a lot, but at least it’s something. But they’ve given us absolutely nothing.”

The chip shop needs regular deliveries of large numbers of sacks of potatoes, among other supplies. “Our deliveries are heavy goods,” said Mr Crolla. “Two of our main deliveries come by articulated lorries that have to stop. The planners seemed to be presuming we could get deliveries from a bicycle. There’s not much thought been given to businesses – they haven t come to us and said ‘What do you need?’ There has been no serious thought about any kind of parking or loading. They have just ignored us. It’s a bit disappointing, especially when you’ve been waiting nearly four years for everything to go back to some kind of normality.”

Transport convener Councillor Scott Arthur said: “I appreciate it’s been a challenging time for businesses and residents in the area over recent years The team has been communicating closely with businesses here to keep them up to speed, meeting monthly and sending regular newsletters on progress. Ultimately, changes along the tram route will significantly improve public spaces, with trees planted and more room for hospitality venues to have outdoor tables and chairs.

“Designs were developed in communication with stakeholders, including a consultation in 2018, and people were also welcome to share their views as part of the Traffic Regulation Order process in 2021. While there is parking provision for businesses we’ve balanced this with increased public space, for which there was a clear desire from respondents to our consultation. The project is about to start construction in the area and in order to do this materials have been placed in some sections along the route. The team is hoping to be finished work by the end of April, and I’d like to thank all those who live and work there for their patience during this time.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *