Readers' letters: Differing visions of Edinburgh’s future

I hate to disagree with comments by a “business leader”, distinguished columnist John McLellan and a top arts correspondent, but I do not think the leaders of the Cockburn Association are “sniffy”, “party poopers” or that their position on events in parks is ‘baffling’. In my experience they’re just people who care passionately about the city. However, I do think the Cockburn Association is wrong to seek to stop events that bring so much joy to so many.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 9:59 am
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When the predecessor of the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust was formed, it was easy to see dereliction and decay throughout Edinburgh. Back then the Director of the Cockburn Association described its task as “halting 200 years of decay”.

Edinburgh was at that time famous for its “holes in the ground”, its castle and very little else. Since then, the “holes” have been filled and such is the reduction in dereliction that there are now barely any buildings in the city centre on the Buildings at Risk register. That’s a great achievement.

However, once you solve one problem the focus inevitably falls on other issues, as has happened here.

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Provided events do not cause lasting damage they’re a great thing. The Fly Music Festival and other events allow people to enjoy their parks too. They also help pay for what is arguably the best parks service in Scotland. The Cockburn Association is perfectly within its rights to express concerns and thankfully those concerns can be answered.

Donald Anderson, Edinburgh.

Events promotion is not tourism

Councillor John McLellan’s piece in the Evening News (September 16) requires a response and a fact check.

Conflating the condition of the Ross Bandstand with the commodification of public spaces such as West Princes Street Gardens, highlights the gulf between tourism and events promotion and the city council’s obligations to manage Common Goods land for the benefit of citizens. The condition of the bandstand is the result of decisions not to invest in basic maintenance. If funds raised from commercial ticketed events were used directly for such purposes, he would have a point. They are not.

The proposals by the Ross Development Trust to replace the existing structure with a new concert venue fell foul of the city’s own planning policies. Both the city planners and Historic Environment Scotland stated the proposals were unsupportable in principle.

Fundamentally, there is no impediment to the repair and adaption of the current structure, as was done in Glasgow’s Kelvin Park.

The Cockburn agrees that activities and events in public spaces can add vitality and viability to the city. We would not agree that excluding the public the right of access to their open spaces is the price worth paying.

Look at the public notices on the railings to West Princes Street Gardens, signed by the chief executive of his council. It states that the legal right of access which would be exercisable have been exempted for the purpose to allow an entry charge to be levied. In other words, to support a ticketed event, free public access will be denied.

The privatisation of public spaces anywhere in the city even for short periods of time, is a slippery slope. The Cockburn Association believes it should be resisted.

Terry Levinthal, Director, Cockburn Association.