East Princes Street Gardens is currently covered in scaffolding and other monstrosities as it becomes a unsightly Xmas market - see this post from a few days ago for photos, I can't face visiting again at the moment and I know from Twitter that it all looks far worse now. There is nothing wrong with a Christmas market in principle and in fact years ago I used to enjoy evening trips to the Edinburgh Christmas market when it was small and cosy and sold mulled wine in reusable mugs. However this one is just too big and the extra stalls will probably all be selling the same as the existing stalls. I recently read that the stalls selling Scottish crafts (which were the most interesting part of the Market) will no longer be there at all. The other problem is of course that part of Edinburgh's only city centre park is being covered over with unsightly construction works that will then become a group of sheds. Meaning that we can't enjoy it as an open green space and probably having a knock on effect on the landscaping, trees, plants and wildlife.
Shockingly there is no planning permission for this! Underbelly (the private entertainments company that seems to be taking over Edinburgh) were told they needed to apply for permission but never did. However, even after significant public outcry, the council has just said that Underbelly can go ahead anyway without planning permission. Which also means without insurance, without Health and Safety arrangements, without licensing agreements for the food and drink stalls and probably without a whole load of other necessary stuff. What's going to happen if part of the construction collapses during the Xmas market? Are the police going to turn a blind eye to the fact that some of the stalls in the market will be operating illegally?
If you live or work in Edinburgh, please consider:
sharing your thoughts and images of this 'preparation for Xmas' on social media
contacting your local councillors directly, not just on social media,
phone them, email them, write them an old fashioned letter, attend their
surgeries in their office (You can find the contact details of your local councillors here);
contacting Edinburgh's Xmas and Underbelly,
contacting National Galleries of Scotland (who own part of this area).
Edinburgh Council will be embarking on a full consultation on what they should do
for the winter festivals in future years. So if you live or work in Edinburgh, keep an eye out for the consultation and make sure you respond.
West Princes Street Gardens has its own share of problems since being effectively taken over by The Quaich Project (a company that is going to replace the existing bandstand with a contemporary events venue). I blogged in the summer about the issues around West Princes Street Gardens being shut to the public while private ticketed events take place at the bandstand, with the knock on effect that has on pedestrian, at least for the moment, is open to people to walk through (and Oktoberfest seems as though it will only take up a small area of the park). The park is also closed over Christmas in the run up to preparing for Edinburgh's ever expanding Hogmanay, which is very disappointing for those of us who used to enjoy a Christmas Day walk through the gardens.
The Quaich project are consulting on the future of West Princes Street Gardens. The consultation runs from 4 November to 1 December and you can find out more here.
Today however was a day when the gardens were open and it was nice to see lots of people enjoying the sunshine. Lovely autumnal trees and iconic views of Edinburgh castle too.
We should be able to enjoy our city centre green spaces every day.