By Kirsty Topping
BUSINESSES affected by Edinburgh’s troubled trams project are to get a £210,000 “compensation” boost from council chiefs.
Shops affected by the closure of Princes Street for remedial work on the tram lines are also set to benefit from reduced business rates.
The news comes as it was revealed that the cost of the project is set to spiral again.
Council bosses will meet on Tuesday to decide on a range of measures, which could see the total cost of the trams rise to a staggering £1billion.
The money will go towards funding three key retail areas in the capital, the City Centre, Leith Walk and the West End, at a cost of £20,000 each per year.
The Christmas and Hogmany events will also be supported to the tune of £70,000.
But business chiefs said the money would not stop businesses from closing.
Chairman of the West End Traders’ Association and director of Paper Tiger, Michael Apter said the money was a “drop in the ocean” and that further work would cause as many problems as the fist stage of building.
He said: “The fundamental issue is there was hundreds of thousands, in fact close to a million, put aside during the first stage of the tram works for business support.
“We’re looking at another phase of work in the city which is going to be as long in duration as the first stage.
“The impact of the work three years ago was devastating. There were businesses that ceased trading when the utility works at the West End were carried out, and they cited the tram works as a factor in them going under.
“It’s of deep concern that at this stage in the economic cycle, many more businesses – who have managed to trade successfully through the previous tram works and through the recession – will suffer from a deep and devastating impact on their ability to trade.
“It’s the people that live in Edinburgh, Fife and the Lothians who are put off the idea of shopping in the city as a result of the tram works.
“The city needs to make a magnificent gesture to ensure Edinburgh still has the range of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants that it has now when the trams are running in 2014.
“The concern this time is there is a global recession that’s having an impact of companies in Edinburgh – the level of support being offered is virtually non-existent.”
Work to repair defects between the rails and the road is set to begin on September 4 and continue until July 2012.
But work will stop for the duration of the Christmas period, from the switching on of the Christmas lights on November 24 until January 4.