It’s the focal point of the Capital – a rolling expanse of luscious parkland stretched out beneath the Castle and packed full of revellers enjoying the Easter sunshine.
But today angry locals have labelled Princes Street Gardens a “mess” after city chiefs failed to clear up the muddy expanse where the Christmas market used to stand.
Photographs taken yesterday afternoon – three months after the last of the stalls were taken down – show locals and tourists alike soaking up the sun beside a large quagmire of mud where the Christmas Tree Maze and Santa’s Grotto were based.
And the Old Town Community Council confirmed it had submitted an official complaint to the council over the condition of the Gardens – arguing the Capital’s residents had been pushed aside in favour of endless festivals.
A council spokeswoman insisted the Gardens were on schedule to be returned to normal by the beginning of May.
But Bill Cowan, chair of Old Town Community Council, said the state of the area three months on raised questions over whether the city’s Christmas events came at too high a cost. He said: “It’s fun having Christmas markets and these festivals, but people live in this town and when these festivals start taking over everything all year round, it’s not good for us.
“We are the people who pay the council’s wages. It’s us that pay the council tax and the non-domestic rates – although tourism is very important to the town.
“The quality of the Christmas markets as an attraction is negated to a large extent by what we see at the moment, which is a mess.
“The Old Town has a lot of people in it, and Princes Street Gardens is our only big green space – and it’s dug up for nearly half a year. It’s our public space. It’s our gardens.”
Tory councillor Cameron Rose said the muddy expanse was an eyesore at a time when the city was filling with tourists.
He said: “Bearing in mind how busy the town has been over Easter, with tourists from all over the world, it’s disappointing that this has looked a mess for so long. I want Edinburgh to look at its best.”
In January, New Town residents were reported complaining about the “swamp-like” condition of St Andrew Square after it had been used as a base for the Christmas festivites, but since then its turf has been replaced and the grass regrown.
A spokesman for Underbelly, which runs the city’s Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations in partnership with Unique Events, confirmed that while it paid for the reinstatement of the Gardens after the events, it was the council’s responsibility to carry out the work.
A council spokeswoman said: “Reinstating the grass is an intensive process which cannot be carried out until the ground is sufficiently dry and frost-free.
“Once the soil conditions are right turf is laid, though it takes a number of weeks for roots to strengthen sufficiently to allow people to walk on it.”