Organisers of Edinburgh's Christmas Market 'should have applied for planning permission'
THE Capital's leading conservation body claims Christmas Market organisers should have obtained planning permission before putting up massive scaffolding in Princes Street Gardens.
The Cockburn Association argues the scale of the construction and the fact it will be up for more than 28 days means it ought to have been approved through the official planning process.
The Christmas Market, run by Underbelly, is expanding this year, taking over more of the gardens in a revamped layout with a record 163 stalls and bars spread across East Princes Street Gardens and The Mound precinct.
Pictures of the scaffolding going up sparked an outcry earlier this week with one angry objector labelling it "hyper-bloated commercialism".
The Cockburn has written to the council to ask if a planning application was submitted for the scaffolding.
The association's letter says: "It strikes us that this should be defined as development and therefore falls within the scope of the Planning Acts. It also seems clear to us that this structure will be in place for more than 28 days, indicating that it shouldn’t be considered a temporary use and therefore have permitted development rights.
"As such, the Cockburn is of the view that a full planning application is required."
The letter goes on to ask that if no application has been received the council should take "the necessary enforcement action".
Cockburn director Terry Levinthal said that could mean calling a halt to the construction or requiring a late planning application which could be processed quickly.
He said: "Things such as the Christmas Market can be a great asset to the city and they can creat a really good buzz, but they can also become too big and too disruptive.
"We must never assume that the ever-expanding Christmas Market or Hogmanay is always going to be a good thing for the city."
A council spokesperson said: “Edinburgh’s Christmas continues to grow in popularity and not just with visitors. Just last year over 186,000 tickets were purchased for Christmas rides, attractions and shows by resident’s using their 20% discount (a 31% increase on 2017). Throughout its residency in East Princes Street Gardens and following increased popularity and visitor feedback the market has evolved.
“This year’s infrastructure is in place to ensure that the Gardens – including the areas benefiting from National Galleries of Scotland’s improvement works – are preserved. The redesign of the space will also address the concerns last year around large crowds and circulation.
“Discussions between Underbelly and planning officers are ongoing.”
An Underbelly spokesperson said: “Underbelly agreed with the council that it was not possible to make a planning application until the plans had been agreed with the council as the landlord of Edinburgh's Christmas. Discussions about the plans began with the council in April and were not agreed until October 12. Following that agreement, Underbelly is now compiling its planning application which it will submit at the earliest possible opportunity.
“The scaffold currently going in allows the Christmas market to continue in the gardens while working round the ongoing changes to the landscape and also ensures we are taking every measure to protect the gardens.”