Campaigners are today demanding action to tackle the city’s redundant fountains, with water features in Hunter Square and Festival Square being switched off for three years, and the historic Ross Fountain at the foot of Edinburgh Castle in a state of disrepair since 2010.
Returning these fountains to full working order would be too costly, the council has said, with the revival of the Hunter Square showpiece alone estimated at around £11,000 a year. Heritage groups have railed against the inaction, which has been branded “unacceptable”.
The city has confirmed there are no plans to restore the fountains in either Hunter or Festival square, though a £1.5 million bid was launched last month to restore the 19th-century Ross Fountain in Princes Street Gardens. Extra money is needed to ensure the A-listed monument is returned to its former glory.
A council spokeswoman said: “Water features are notoriously difficult and costly to restore, especially after years, and sometimes centuries, of being exposed to the Edinburgh elements. Working fountains across the city would be an attractive addition to Edinburgh’s already beautiful cityscape, but such a project would come with a cost.
“The council is currently sourcing funding from a variety of people and organisations, not just the council, in order to secure the future of the historic Ross Fountain in East Princes Street Gardens for a further 100 years.”
The decision to leave some of the fountains high and dry has been condemned by the city’s conservation watchdogs.
Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, said: “Over time damage has been done and now we have got to a point where the council tells us it is tight for money and doesn’t see them as a priority.
“When permissions were granted things should have been put in place to ensure the longevity of the feature.
“Water features are a part of many international cities and they provide a lot for urban space and for people’s wellbeing. It really is unacceptable.”
She described the Ross Fountain as “a jewel” in Edinburgh’s crown and urged the council to take responsibility for it.
Ms Williams said: “The Ross Fountain was a gift to the people of Edinburgh, I believe, and it becomes the responsibility of the local authority to look after the monument. How can they afford the many millions of pounds for priming development and running festivals and tourism, while forgetting something like this?”
That sentiment was echoed by Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, who added: “Today it is one of the treasure’s of the city and we strongly support its conservation and repair.”