Picnic dining plan for Festival Square

An artist's impression of the Festival Square plan shows seating areas and market stalls. Picture: Nest Events
An artist's impression of the Festival Square plan shows seating areas and market stalls. Picture: Nest Events
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The impromptu alfresco picnic that springs up in Princes Street Gardens on warm, sunny days is one of the best things about Edinburgh.

It’s a clear sign summer is here and creates a unique buzz around the city centre.

Now plans are afoot to breathe a new lease of life into Festival Square, off Lothian Road, and turn it into an outdoor eating village.

As these pictures show, developers want to emulate that informal Princes Street picnic feel by providing a trendy outdoor street dining experience.

Pop-up market stalls and three vibrant picnic spaces would breathe a new lease of life into the under-used square says Leith-based firm Nest Events Ltd. It has tabled plans it hopes would prove popular with workers from nearby places like Standard Life.

In the summer months, people will be able to create their own picnic from a collection of ten fresh food stalls, before enjoying an alfresco meal on rugs and deck chairs on artificial grass. Meanwhile in the winter, warming comfort food will be available to eat on long shared tables under a retractable tent.

The set-up would be complemented by an “Airpuddle” children’s attraction – described as an “interactive jumping airshell”.

A design statement submitted with a planning application to Edinburgh council says the venture would give a new use to the “under-used” and “austere” square.

Architect Pol Taylor, a director of Nest Events Ltd, said: “The square is entirely lacking in street furniture conducive to the temporary appropriation of the space by pedestrians.”

His vision will see three-metre high “cubic stalls”, which can be locked overnight, and a canopy for sheltering shoppers from the elements nestling next to space-age looking market stalls.

There would also be snake-like communal seating located in an area that would attract the last rays of summer sunshine, and a “kids’ picnic” set at the back of the square, to give children a safe environment to play.

Cllr Joanna Mowat – who covers the city centre – welcomed the plan, saying it would help “liven up the area.” “I think Festival Square has been seen as a windswept problem for some time and we have been looking for something to animate that area.

“There are lots of big offices around so if this works, in a way that balances any concerns they have. Then I think it will be an interesting experiment,” she said.

Big screen rethink ideas unveiled

The scheme comes just weeks after a planning application was lodged for permission to show “full motion images” and community content on the large screen at the site.

The screenings would include the promotion of Marketing Edinburgh, The Edinburgh Film Festival, Edinburgh Festival, Jazz & Blues Festival, Fringe, major sporting events and sponsorship advertising content. The Evening News also recently revealed the screen’s operators want to move it three metres, to afford a better view, and so it doesn’t impact on Sheraton hotel guests.

The screen – which showed last year’s Wimbledon final – could screen World Cup games this summer.