Heritage group in call to end pop and rock gigs at Princes Street Gardens

Blackboards that were erected to prevent the public seeing the concert for free.
Blackboards that were erected to prevent the public seeing the concert for free.
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THERE have been calls for pop and rock gigs to be ousted from Princes Street Gardens to protect the landmark below Edinburgh Castle from being turned into a “theme park”.

The call from the Cockburn Association, the city’s long-running heritage body, for an end to large-scale concerts during the Fringe and at Hogmanay comes amid complaints of a Tattoo performance being disturbed by the nearby Rag‘N’Bone Man gig in Princes Street Gardens.

Controversy erupted last week over blackboards that prevent the public seeing ticketed concerts in the gardens, which could host up to 200 events a year when a new £25 million arena is completed.

The association has called for Leith Links to be considered as an alternative location and accused council chiefs of trying to commercialise ­“every square metre” of the city centre.

Only the festival fireworks finale would be allowed in the gardens under the Cockburn’s vision for the beauty spot.

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Chairman Cliff Hague said: “Like many others, my concerns have grown, as it seems like every square metre of the city centre is being viewed as a means of raising revenue. This also links disruption such events cause before, during and after the event itself.

“I’ve no problems with the fireworks at the end of the festival, which depend on the setting of the castle to add to the spectacle. But I’m less convinced by the necessity to stage major pop and rock concerts.”

The Cockburn is urging anyone concerned about the use of the gardens to respond to an ongoing consultation which could see up to 200 theatre, comedy, dance, visual art exhibitions, talks and children’s shows staged in the gardens. Mr Hague said: “We believe the matter is one on which all citizens should have a chance to have a say.”

A spokeswoman for the city council said: “Princes Street Gardens are so central to daily Edinburgh life – it’s where we relax, play, eat and enjoy events – and I’m sure many people will want to have their say. Whether you believe the gardens provide a fantastic backdrop for a set number of concerts or not, it’s really important that as many people as possible share their views. This is a citywide discussion about the vibrancy of the gardens and the role they play in Edinburgh’s cultural scene.”

‘A better solution is needed’

A BETTER solution must be found if major concerts are to be staged in Princes Street Gardens in future, council leader Adam McVey said as he defended the council’s U-turn on hoardings used to prevent people watching from the pavement.

Cllr McVey ordered the 10ft black-out boards to be removed ahead of Tuesday night’s Rag ‘N Bone Man gig after complaints that they were blocking views of the castle.

The council announced it would close the area of pavement in front of the Ross Bandstand instead – but changed its mind after police advice and the hoardings went back up, though at a reduced height and only for the duration of the concert.

Cllr McVey said: “The problem came down to public safety. There were still concerns that even if we put restrictions on the pavement it would create the same problem on the road. In order to stop people congregating in the road to watch the concert we decided we needed to do something else.”

Similar measures will be in place for the remaining two concerts – Paloma Faith tomorrowFri and Kasabian on Saturday.

But Cllr McVey said: “We will have to look for a better solution for the future.”