New plans to create a drop-in center for the homeless in the heart of the city centre are set to get the go-ahead – to the fury of hotel and tour bosses.
The Salvation Army wants to open its “dry center” in vacant business premises on Niddry Street, off the Royal Mile, after the lease on its existing Bread Street facility ran out.
The center would be a drop-in centre for homeless people providing meals, showers and clothing. The charity claimed it will be a vital service to the homeless community in Edinburgh.
But businesses and residents on Niddry Street have united against the plans, claiming existing problems with antisocial behaviour on the street from drunks and drug users will only get worse.
Council officials have recommended to the city’s planning committee that the drop-in center be given the go-ahead despite a total of 27 objections from neighbours.
Property agents representing the owners of the SAS Radisson Hotel building, which is opposite the proposed center, wrote to the council to warn the plans would create “a focal point in the heart of the Royal Mile for considerable ‘undesirable’ types”.
Ian McKain, manager of Auld Reekie Tours, which operates out of offices neighbouring the center, said the street was already under pressure from antisocial behaviour.
He explained: “Heroin and other drug addicts use the turnpike stairwells for injecting, inhaling and smoking banned substances, resulting in discarded needles, tin foil, litter, urine and excrement.
“It is always a risk that myself and my staff can face physical confrontation by these people.”
Earlier this year, the Salvation Army abandoned plans to create the center in nearby Clerk Street after a planning application attracted strong objections from neighbouring residents and businesses.
Residents around this center contacted the News in July with concerns that the area had been plagued by people drinking and taking drugs in the street.
A temporary drop-in center has been operating from the Salvation Army offices at the corner of East Adam Street and the Pleasance in recent months.
A spokeswoman for the charity said: “The Salvation Army has been searching for a suitable site for our vital service to the homeless community in Edinburgh for three years.
“The Niddry Street location is in close proximity to our hostel accommodation at the Pleasance and our move-on flats at East Adam Street. Our aim is to offer an integrated service for people without a home.
“We are responsible service providers with a proven track record of repairing lives. We want to assure the public that we will do everything in our power to ensure people using any of our services respect our premises.”
In a report to councillors, officials say the Niddry Street plan should get the go-ahead, saying it would have the potential to reduce problems in the area by “providing them with a place to go”.