Game on at last: Outdated Victorian park rules axed

David Jamieson: head of parks and greenspace at the City Council
David Jamieson: head of parks and greenspace at the City Council
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THEY WERE outlawed practices judged to be troublesome or immoral by the city’s stringent Victorian leaders.

Now, finally, a host of outdated measures which technically banned domino players and kite flyers from the city’s parks are to be lifted after more than a century.

Rules banning gambling, betting and rock climbing will be among those no longer applying to green spaces from next month, along with those preventing horses being ridden through parks.

And if in need of a cooling off after all that, swimming in ponds will also now be 
tolerated.

Prohibition of alcohol has also been lifted, although the authorities have taken a tolerant approach for many years and can tackle unacceptable behaviour under other powers.

In contrast, metal detecting will be among the new restrictions unless under special circumstances, to allow officials to keep track of sites being 
examined.

David Jamieson, head of parks and greenspace at Edinburgh City Council, said: “Park rules are reviewed every ten years and we often find that the issues of the day may well not be issues of the past.

“Rules are there to help the responsible management of parks and that’s why some disappear over the years.”

Although unenforced – and largely not known about by the public – many of the regulations have been in place since the 19th century, when the city elders first introduced park rules.

Starting with Princes Street Gardens in 1877, residents were banned from washing, drying or shaking carpets, along with loitering and hawking – flogging goods in public – and discharging firearms.

Use of obscene language – for which arguably there would be support to reintroduce today – was also prohibited and enforced by elected council chiefs themselves.

Parks bosses said priorities have changed significantly in recent years and that a 
common-sense approach is often taken.

Mr Jamieson, below, who is currently writing a book charting the history of Edinburgh parks, said officials often take a pragmatic approach.

He said: “This time we looked at our current rules and spoke to all of our ‘friends of’ groups and asked what was relevant to them. Things like gambling are not a big issues in parks these days.

“That’s also why things like gambling and flying kites have been removed. We would probably encourage people to fly kites actually.”