Charity card shop handed banner bill

Volunteers from the card shop with the promotional poster.  Picture: Ian Rutherford

Volunteers from the card shop with the promotional poster. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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Volunteers behind a Christmas charity fundraiser have branded the city council Grinch-like after being hit with a bill for trying to promote the scheme.

The Original Charity Christmas Card Shop has moved next to St Mary’s RC Cathedral in York Place and had put up a banner advertising the new location on the building’s 
railings.

But those running the scheme were left stunned when they received a letter from the council this week telling them to either take the notice down or submit a planning application and pay £192 to put the advert on a listed building.

The scheme, which is in its 28th year and typically raises about £60,000 for a list of charities, involves selling Christmas cards, calendars and other stationery.

The shop had been traditionally run out of St George’s West Church in Shandwick Place every October to December, but it has been forced to move after that building was sold last year.

Angie Smith, donor development manager for beneficiary Alzheimer Scotland, said the charity shop had pulled in £15,000 less in 2012, with organisers attributing the drop-off to tram works that locked down the West 
End.

She said the latest move by the council was an added blow, as volunteers battled to promote the card shop’s new 
location.

“The last couple of years with the tram works, our total income was down,” she said. “Now we’re at the new venue they’re telling us to take the banner down – they’re not being very helpful.

“This is a good initiative. Outside of what we pay in rent, everything else goes to the charities.

“We’re trying to publicise and let people know we’ve moved. We don’t really have that money to pay out for it.”

The charity shop is running out of Cafe Camino in Little King Street, adjacent to the cathedral. The large plastic banner advertises the charity card shop’s location, with an arrow pointing to the cafe.

Eleven charities will receive the proceeds from this year’s sales, including the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland, Maggie’s Centre, YMCA Edinburgh, St Columba’s Hospice, Friends of Samaritans and Waverley Care.

Cards will be sold until December 20.

Volunteer Barbara Muir, 69, said: “We do this on a shoestring and it’s run by volunteers – we’re not paid. It’s been a hard slog this year and when we were told to take the banner down, we couldn’t believe it.”
Flyers have also been used to publicise the switch, but have not led to a surge in card sales.

The council said it had written to the stall organisers after receiving a public complaint about the banner.

A spokeswoman said: “Advertisement consent is required for signage over a certain size and where the building is listed we need to ensure we protect its character.”

The Chapel of St Mary’s was first opened in 1814 and is a B-listed heritage building.

dale.miller@edinburghnews.com