While last year’s Christmas market was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event – running from November 19 until January 5 – will be spread out across a wider area of the city centre.
The traditional site in East Princes Street Gardens will have the usual mixture of stall and fairground rides – including the Big Wheel – but these will just be in the top tier of the gardens.
Santa Land, with attractions for younger children will be found in West Princes Street Gardens while the popular ice rink will move to George Street.
Members of Edinburgh’s council’s licensing sub-committee questioned organisers Underbelly on how they would make sure there was no repeat of previous years when overcrowding caused safety fears.
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Ruth Fisher, of Underbelly, said: “We will be operating under Scottish Government guidance which means we will be under 5000 capacity at any given time across all of our sites in Edinburgh.
“We monitor crowd control by way of CCTV, by way of steward reporting on the ground and by way of visual inspection by the senior management team.
This year, she said, they will operate a one-way system for East Princes Street Gardens, on peak days – every Saturday and Sunday and from December 18 to 24.
She added: “We’ll be asking people to enter via the Waverley Gates which will allow us to have controlled access to the site to ensure we are able to manage any footfall.”
The capacity for the larger area that was used in 2019 was for 9000 people but Ms Fisher said this year they would be looking to keep numbers around 4000, despite guidelines allowing 5000.
This year they would also apply the lessons learned from overcrowding round the Big Wheel and there would be no stalls directly opposite it.
As a precaution, all members of staff – including stall holders – will receive training on ‘Run, Hide and Tell’, which is the advice given by counter terrorism police in the event of a firearms or weapons attack.
Councillors were also reassured that setting up for the event will not affect any Remembrance services.
They were told that building work will not start on the east side until after 2pm on November 15, by when the gardens will have been cleared of remembrance items.
Ms Fisher also said there had been extensive consultation with the Scottish National Gallery on Princes Street to make sure that access is maintained to the galleries and to the Scottish Cafe at all times.
For the third site, on George Street, where the ice rink will be, the organisers have agreed to ensure that an emergency lane for traffic is provided and have also organised a servicing lane in the morning that will allow businesses to receive deliveries.
Councillors heard that the organisers were continuing to work with the city’s Event Planning and Organisation Group (EPOG) and would do so “up until the last minute”.