RADICAL plans to allow bars and restaurants on Princes Street are to be considered by Edinburgh Council, it has been announced.

One of the country’s most famous shopping thoroughfares, Princes Street is currently subject to planning policies that restrict the number of non-retail outlets.

Today the council will launch a consultation on the proposals to allow planning permission to be sought for non-retail uses such as bars and restaurants in the face of the continuing drop in high street sales and the competition likely to come from the Edinburgh St James development next year.

READ MORE: Plan to bring back offices and homes to Edinburgh's Princes Street​

Planning convener and councillor Neil Gardiner said: “Despite pressures from online shopping nationally, Edinburgh has a buoyant retail industry evidenced by the £1 billion investment in the Edinburgh St James development due to open in 2020.

“It is important though that we look to the future and regularly review our planning policies to make sure they are flexible enough to move with the times.”

A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses said: “Central Edinburgh is still a great retail destination but like many shopping strips, Princes Street has found it tough to fill every unit.

“By loosening planning restrictions, we could see some non-retail businesses – like bars or restaurants – take up some hard-to-fill spaces. These operators could bring important to footfall to the existing shops while eliminating unsightly empty premises.

“On the other hand, officials have a tough job to ensure that we don’t go too far in the opposite direction, and we lose all of our shopping spaces.

“It’d be great to see more high-quality independent firms in this historic area – not just more chains.”

Meanwhile, the council has agreed a timetable to progress its next local development plan, City Plan 2030, to help shape a “sustainable, inclusive and successful Edinburgh”.

The main consultation stage, Choices for City Plan 2030, will start in December and end in February next year. Early engagement is currently being carried out by the council, which has been working with community representatives and other stakeholders in preparing the choices to be presented at the main consultation stage.

Gardiner added: “City Plan 2030 will ensure that growth in the city is based on the needs of our communities and is fully sustainable.

“It will provide opportunity and guidance to the development community indicating how they can contribute to building for the long-term future of our city.

“It needs to be ambitious to create a thriving and united city in which all residents can share in our success.”