A PERMANENT “public events space” is set to be created in the Meadows – sparking fears over increasing commercialisation and reduced access for residents.
City bosses have unveiled proposals which would see a section of the park hosting “high impact events”, with tens of thousands of pounds likely to be earmarked annually for improved drainage and maintenance.
Amid a wider council drive to save £141 million over the next four years, they have also suggested significant sums could be earned by charging enhanced rates from organisers willing to pay a “premium” for the high-profile site.
It is understood a 6.4-acre swathe of land east of Middle Meadow Walk and next to a group of tennis courts has been identified as a suitable location.
The area – equivalent to nearly four football pitches – could host major gatherings similar to current and past Meadows-based events. These include the Fringe Festival Funfair, Meadows Festival and Taste of Edinburgh.
City chiefs have stressed that any events timetable will be regulated by Edinburgh’s Parks Manifesto, which imposes limits on the number of uses and their duration. And there would be no “revolving door” for organisers looking to secure sites and no moves to “fence off” the area, they added.
But resident leaders today attacked the potential loss of “common good” land.
Heather Goodare, convener of Friends of the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links, said: “We are very apprehensive. This is common good ground which has been made available to the public for sport and if it’s going to be turned into something which is not common good, that would be a concern.
“If the council is going to take over an important site on the Meadows and then charge, how much of that is going to come back to the Meadows?
“We are continually being told things cannot be done on the Meadows because the budget will not stretch. Ideally, we would like our own grass back, thank you very much.”
Opposition figures said they had received assurances there would be no sudden jump in the regularity of events held in the park.
Councillor Chas Booth, Green environment spokesman, said: “The clear impression I was given by officers is that because there’s no money for a reinforced fibre net system at the Meadows, there will be no increase in the number or frequency of large events there.
“If this is not correct and there is to be an increase in high-impact uses of the Meadows, we would be very concerned, in particular if existing users of the Meadows – whether for sport or recreation – were inconvenienced.”
City leaders said plans to create a dedicated events space had been inspired by the Meadows’ success in hosting several major attractions.
A council spokeswoman said: “We recognise that the park is one of the city’s premier green spaces and it’s a positive step to consider the creation of an events space within it.”