The Meadows remain one of the most important open spaces in Edinburgh and one of the most popular. Not our words, but taken straight from the website of Edinburgh City Council. But we can agree on that.
Hence, any change in the way the Meadows are managed or used is certain to prompt debate and controversy.
The park was once the site of the wind-swept Borough Loch. After it was drained, and as the city grew, the Edinburgh Improvement Act of 1827 stated that “it should not be competent for the Lord Provost, Magistrates and Council, or any other person, without the sanction of Parliament obtained for the express purpose, at any time thereafter to erect buildings of any kind upon any part of the grounds called the Meadows or Bruntsfield Links so far as the same belongs in property to the Lord Provost, Magistrates and Council.”
Today, it was revealed that the local authority is considering the creation of a permanent “public events space” – essentially an area where large-scale events would be hosted in return for a higher charge. It is believed that a 6.4-acre area of land east of Middle Meadow Walk and next to the tennis courts has been identified as the suitable location.
Campaigners have already questioned whether the Meadows is being lost to the people.
But with proper safeguards this could be a sensible plan. Rather than having events which damage the grass held on different areas, they could all be pushed into one zone with better public facilities including transportation and toilets.
And there is no suggestion, at present, that this would involve any kind of permanent structure of the type which would contravene the 1827 Act.
The Meadows is a valued green space and at certain times of the year it a wondrous site, filled with a myriad of people sunbathing, golfing, playing football, having barbecues and enjoying the open space. But for long periods it is also empty. Anything that can encourage careful managed use of this precious space should be gently encouraged.