Call for vote on idea of ‘urban forest’ for Princes Street Gardens

The winning design for the Ross Bandstand, chosen in August 2017, came from Malcolm Reading Consultants and wHY.
The winning design for the Ross Bandstand, chosen in August 2017, came from Malcolm Reading Consultants and wHY.
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Edinburgh’s long-running heritage watchdog wants a public poll to be held to decide whether a new “urban forest” should replace the Ross Bandstand to ensure Princes Street Gardens remains a “tranquil green space” in future.

The Cockburn Association (CA) has demanded people get the option of voting for a “horticultural option” for the future gardens which would see the run-down landmark removed.

The idea would see an end to the long-standing tradition of having a bandstand in the gardens, which dates back to 1853. The current structure was built in 1935, but has fallen into decline in recent years.

Most concert organisers have to pay to erect temporary staging and bring in full production facilities, while the existing bandstand is rarely used throughout the year.

The Ross Development Trust, set up by hotel developer Norman Springford to pursue plans for a £25 million concert arena he has offered to help bankroll, announced a winning concept last summer after a global design contest.

However, design work on the scheme has been held up until there is agreement on who will run the new facilities and be responsible for the gardens when it opens.

The CA has urged the council to put forward the “urban forest” idea as an alternative to a new arena, visitor centre and corporate hospitality facilities replacing the existing bandstand and concrete bowl beneath Edinburgh Castle.

It has also pressed the council to ensure there is a public vote on whether to hand over control of the gardens to a new arms-length operator which would take control of the new concert arena.

In a letter sent to every councillor in the city, the CA’s chairman, Cliff Hague, urges them to ensure the people of Edinburgh are able to have their say on “alternative scenarios” for the future running of the gardens, as well as the proposed new concert arena.

He states: “What sort of place should the Gardens be? This fundamental question should be at the heart of any consultative exercise.

“Should they be for all citizens and visitors alike to enjoy for free, a tranquil green space with unique views in the very heart of Edinburgh? Or do they represent an under-used asset that we want to see used more intensively and more frequently to generate revenue and commercial benefit?”

Donald Wilson, culture convenor at the council, said: “We’ve agreed to full public engagement on all aspects of this project. This will include consultation around how the new development will be managed and any impact it’ll have on the Gardens. We’re looking forward to hearing the views of as many people as possible once this is under way.”