Edinburgh's planning chief says Underbelly could have tabled late application 'much sooner' for controversial Christmas market
Edinburgh's planning chief has blasted Underbelly for not submitting a planning application for a controversial Christmas market "much earlier" - with the event set to finish operating before securing consent.
The Capital’s planning convener has hit out at the company behind a controversial Christmas market which opened without planning consent – stating they could have applied for permission “much earlier”.
Underbelly’s Christmas market in East Princes Street Gardens attracted 522,000 people in the first nine days of operation. But the organisation of the event has come under fire by the failure to secure planning permission – with an application now unable to be handed over until the end of January at the earliest.
It was also revealed that the market operated last year without planning permission, unnoticed by Edinburgh City Council officials – with Underbelly giving no explanation for the oversight.
Now the city’s planning convener, Cllr Neil Gardiner, who will oversee the determination of any planning application when it is heard by the authority’s development management sub-committee, has criticised Underbelly for not submitted plans earlier. Underbelly submitted a planning application notice on November 1 – requiring 12 weeks of consultation before a full application can be handed over to planners.
Cllr Gardiner said: “On August 30, my understanding is that officers told the applicant, Underbelly, they required planning consent. A lot has been made of them holding back until October in order to deliver that.
“My understanding as an architect would be that they really could have applied for that much earlier. That potentially could have moved forward much quicker than the time it was actually submitted.”
He added: “When this application comes forward to committee, we can properly scrutinise it, taking on board various factors. Obviously it will be controversial when it comes but we need to divorce ourselves form the controversy and look at it as a planning judgement.
“It’s unfortunate it’s coming after the event and the chief executive is going to report on that aspect of it.”
The council’s chief executive Andrew Kerr is drawing up a full investigation into the processes that fed into the organisation of this year’s Christmas market. Mr Kerr was quizzed by councillors about his interim findings at the policy and sustainability committee meeting earlier this week.
Green Cllr Alex Staniforth said: “When it became apparent that it would be impossible for Underbelly to apply for regular planning permission in time, why weren’t they advised to apply for planning permission in principle – which would at least have allowed bodes such as World Heritage Edinburgh to make their comments known beforehand?”
Mr Kerr said: “I don’t know the answer to that question right now. I will know that by the time we get to February when I will know the timeline and the exact circumstances that were undertaken.”