FIRE crews were called to the Meadows 19 times in July, it was revealed today as campaigners complained about barbecues and accused councillors of failing to protect one of the Capital’s favourite greenspaces.
Residents claim they are being overwhelmed in summer months by drink-fuelled antisocial behaviour, public urination and fires caused by barbecues, and say big events are causing long-term damage to the park itself.
Friends of the Meadows convener Heather Goodare told councillors that Tollcross and Liberton fire chief Jonathan Miller had revealed to her that his crews attended 19 “secondary fires” in the Meadows during July.
In an e-mail, Mr Miller wrote that “the public are not disposing of [barbecues] in a safe manner”.
The campaigners have blasted new rules on outdoor events in the Meadows. They branded plans to allow big attractions such as the Ladyboys of Bangkok to set up in the park for up to 29 days as “deeply illogical”.
Residents wanted events restricted to 15 days – in line with other Capital parks – and for event producers to pay higher rents to fund more environmental wardens to police the Meadows.
But at a meeting of the transport committee on Tuesday, councillors approved a 23-day limit, with three extra days allowed either side for setting and packing up.
The Evening News revealed yesterday that Ladyboys producers are considering leaving Edinburgh if the changes to the city’s Parks Events Manifesto, which include a new competitive tender process to use the Meadows, pushes up their costs.
The residents’ concerns have been backed by the city’s own experts. Parks manager David Jamieson said additional investment was needed to stop the area flooding, despite £100,000 having been spent on drainage works this year. He added that 15 days was the maximum time that grass could survive underneath a temporary structure.
Mrs Goodare said: “We really need to rethink the strategy for events. Anything longer than a fortnight needs to go on to a hard surface.”
A council spokeswoman said: “Our decision took into account the importance of the location for our hugely successful summer festival.
“We are committed to investing any income gained through rent into the upkeep and improvement of parks.”