Edinburgh's council leader demands 'urgent' action as memorial benches 'discarded' during Christmas market construction

Edinburgh's council leader has called for 'urgent' action after a picture emerged of memorial benches apparently 'discarded' in Princes Street Gardens during work on the Christmas market.

Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 3:19 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 5:01 pm

The picture, shared on social media on Wednesday, shows about half a dozen benches on a grass embankment, with one of the seats tipped on its back.

The image has sparked fury online, with Edinburgh City Council leader Adam McVey among those to respond, saying: "This not how we treat memorial benches. I've asked for this to be dealt with urgently."

A spokeswoman for Christmas market organisers Underbelly say the benches were temporarily moved for some installations to take place and are normally put back within a day. She said the memorial benches are handled "respectfully" and apologised if the picture suggested otherwise.

The memorial benches in Princes Street Gardens. Pic: Ross_1987/Twitter.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But several social media users have been venting their anger over what is shown in the image.

In response to Mr McVey's comment, Sheila Hamilton said: "By the end of the day I hope. This is disgraceful. And adds to the outrage over the whole fiasco."

Another tweeter, Laura, wrote: "Absolutely shocking and disrespectful."

And @Scotty_Lottie wrote: "Incredibly disrespectful."

@RossAndrew_1987, who posted the picture, wrote: "Any reason why those memorial benches have just been discarded in such a manner to make way for Christmas profiteering?"

The Underbelly spokeswoman said: "During the installation some things need to be temporarily moved to protect them while there is a lot going on in a confined space.

"They are put back as soon as possible and usually within the day. The memorial benches are handled respectfully and were placed on one of the banks during this process, we are sorry if photos have given a different impression. They will be returned to their usual location."

An Edinburgh City Council spokesperson said: "During Edinburgh’s Christmas build, we ask that the benches are moved and stored to ensure that they are not damaged. This is temporary and they will be reinstated.

"We have escalated this with Underbelly for immediate attention and reminded them of the importance of the memorial benches."

The picture comes after it emerged councillors were not informed about a controversial steel platform being built in Princes Street Gardens without planning permission, sparking an investigation. It also transpired that a two-year extension for Underbelly's Christmas market was signed off by culture chiefs without an executive committee seeing the "detailed designs."

Last week, heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association, called for the £110 million Christmas market not to open on November 16 as intended, unless a planning application is approved or another solution found.