Restaurants and bars could be allowed to open to help one of Scotland’s most famous shopping streets “move with the times”.
Strict guidelines currently restricts planning permission for food and drink outlets and leisure facilities on Princes Street in Edinburgh.
However, the city council will now launch a consultation to ask the public for their thoughts on relaxing the rules in a bid to ensure the historic thoroughfare “remains vibrant”.
They want to make sure Princes Street remains an attractive destination even after the revamped £1bn St James shopping centre reopens nearby.
Edinburgh planning convener Councillor Neil Gardiner said: “Despite pressures from online shopping nationally, Edinburgh has a buoyant retail industry evidenced by the £1bn 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 leading business group hopes the changes will encourage other firms to take on vacant units and fill “unsightly empty premises”.
A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses said: “Central Edinburgh is still a great retail destination but like many shopping strips, Princess 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.
“Further it’d be great to see more high quality independent firms in this historic area – not just more chains.”