The Princes Street blocks are located in the city centre retail core, with
the study area extending from Hope Street in the west to West Register
Street in the east. The blocks are bound by Princes Street to the south
and include the streets which run north/south such as South Charlotte
Street, Castle Street, Frederick Street, Hanover Street, South St David
Street and South St Andrew Street. The scope of the briefs includes
Rose Street and Rose Street Lanes North and South. For the purposes
of this document each block will establish an overall objective and a series of development principles drawn from the CCPSDF.
The majority of the buildings within the study area are statutory listed
buildings with the entire site lying within the New Town Conservation
Area and World Heritage Site. An assessment of the cultural values of
the buildings within each block has been undertaken and has informed
the content of the briefs.
Historical and Urban Context
The historical development of the First New Town and specifically
Princes Street is described in detail in the Council’s 2008 Princes Street
Heritage Framework. In summary, the following outlines some key dates:
• 1759: The Nor’ Loch is drained to allow the city to expand to the north.
• 1772: After delays North Bridge is fully operational. The Council in turn
acquires the land across the valley.
• March 1766: A competition is held for Plans of a New Town. The
objective is to create an elite residential suburb, the only public buildings
being churches, based on ‘order and regularity’ with ‘streets of a proper
breadth’. Three months later James Craig’s plans win the competition.
• 1771: The first feus in Princes Street are taken up for three storey
houses. Although a good standard of housing was provided, they were
not comparable with those in Queen Street and Castle Street.
• 1776: The most easterly house is converted into a hotel and four years
later a book-shop had been opened nearby.
• 1805: The last of the Princes Street feus are developed with the buildings erected as private dwellings. However, Princes Street was the first street in the New Town to be affected by commercial pressures and by 1800 many of the buildings at the east end are non-residential, partly due to the proximity of industrial uses.
• 1821: The Nor’ Loch is fully drained, enclosed and planted with trees. As a result Princes Street suffers from being a narrow carriageway overlooking a rubbish dump. This may be why it was never as popular a residential street as George Street.
• By 1830 much of Princes Street has become commercial with domestic
buildings altered to accommodate commercial uses. Basement areas
are built over, windows enlarged and completely new shop fronts added
forward of the original front wall.
• Late 19th century: Complete replacement or radical adaptation of
original small scale Georgian domestic buildings commences. With
no overall controls, the replacements were individually designed and
tended to be larger and more ornate than their predecessors. Princes
Street ceases to have uniformity of design.
• 1949: The Abercrombie Plan criticises the laissez-faire development
of the Victorian and Edwardian periods for their lack of cohesion.
Abercrombie prescribed an overall framework for height and massing to
restore cohesion. Redevelopment was considered inevitable and only
three buildings were considered of sufficient quality to merit retention.
• 1967: The Princes Street Panel’s Report continues the theme of the
Abercrombie Plan of overcoming the lack of integration. The Report
recommends that Princes Street is comprehensively redeveloped within
a disciplined building envelope. A unified design is to be achieved by
controlling height, materials, floor levels, frontage widths, and modelling
of elevations. A standard section incorporating a continuous elevated
walkway with shop fronts at first floor level was devised.
• 1970s: The Panel’s formula is abandoned with only isolated sites
rebuilt with its recommendations rescinded in 1982. There was a
move away from an ethos of redevelopment to a more conservationbased
philosophy. The buildings that had resulted from the Panel’s
recommendations were also subject to critical comment and there was
growing concern over the indiscriminate loss of buildings of historic and
• 1996: EDAW Study – ‘A Strategy for the First New Town’ – considers,
amongst other things, the issue of perceived conflict between the desire
to maintain commercial vitality and the need to protect historic and
• 2007: The Council approve the City Centre Princes Street Development
Framework to promote a collective approach to the regeneration of the
Princes Street blocks on the basis that ‘the sum of its parts is greater
than the whole’. The analogy of the ‘string of pearls’ is used to describe
Planning Policy Context
The Council’s planning policies for the city centre are contained in the
Edinburgh and Lothians Structure Plan (2015) (ELSP) and the Central
Edinburgh Local Plan (1997) (CELP) which comprise the development
plan for the area. In addition to the development plan there are a number
of documents that will be material to the consideration of proposals
that come forward for this area. Principal among these is the finalised
Edinburgh City Local Plan (March 2007) (FECLP) which, when adopted
will replace the CELP. Other material considerations include:
• City Centre Princes Street Development Framework 2007;
• Princes Street Heritage Framework 2008;
• Local Transport Strategy 2007-2012, including the Council’s Parking
• The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site Management
• New Town Conservation Area Character Appraisal;
• Guideline for the Protection of Key Views;
• Inspiring Action: The Edinburgh City Centre Action Plan 2005-2010;
• The Edinburgh Standards for Streets 2006
The Council’s planning policies aim to protect and promote the vital
mix of government, cultural, business, retail and leisure uses within
a diverse, thriving and welcoming city centre. To this end the Council
seeks to maintain and strengthen the city centre as the principal focus
of activities which are integral to Edinburgh’s role as a capital city, a
regional service centre and a major tourist destination.
The overarching CCPSDF, with its focus on the regeneration of Princes
Street, sets out a series of development principles to guide and coordinate
development and investment in the City Centre. The Framework
accords with the development plan and complements the City Centre
Action Plan 2005-2010. The innovation of the Framework is the ‘string
of pearls’ concept – whereby the potential for individual street blocks
to be developed along a particular theme, or set of uses, to create a
distinct character is explored.
The development briefs consider the opportunities for new development,
changes of use and refurbishment and enhancement of buildings and
demonstrate how buildings and spaces could be made to work better for
the benefit of the city centre as a whole. In all cases, the development
and refurbishment of buildings will be required to deliver appropriate and
sustainable uses which can contribute to the viability and vitality of the
The study area i.e. Blocks 1-7a lies in its entirety within the New Town
Conservation Area and within the UNESCO World Heritage Site. While
the designation of the site does not carry any additional planning powers
or controls, the impact of any proposed development on the site will be
a material consideration in the determination of planning applications.
Read more on : Princes_St_Dev_Briefs