Fears over Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens Christmas market platform 'coping with festive crowds'

A councillor has called for reassurances that a controversial platform being built in Princes Street Gardens will be able to put up with hundreds of thousands of Christmas market visitors - as well as stalls and goods.

Monday, 4th November 2019, 3:21 pm
Updated Monday, 4th November 2019, 4:54 pm
Underbelly's Christmas market being constructed in Princes Street Gardens
Underbelly's Christmas market being constructed in Princes Street Gardens

The company behind controversial Christmas market plans has moved to reassure the public that a constructed platform will be able to cope with hundreds of thousands of festive revellers set to enjoy the event.

Underbelly has been blasted by some residents, labelled “not representative of the vast majority of people” by the company, for its plans for this year’s Edinburgh Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens. Planning permission still hasn’t been granted for the temporary development, despite the market set to open on November 16. Edinburgh City Council has also launched an investigation into whether the correct processes were followed by councillors and officials in handing Underbelly a two-year extension to its contract.

Now a councillor has called for assurances that the platform, built across the gardens in order to “protect new landscaping” for renovation work to the Scottish National Gallery, will be able to take the weight of more than 100,000 people daily – as well as the 163 market stalls and bars – and all the goods.

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A briefing note circulated to councillors points out that “weekend attendance to the market regularly exceeds 100,000 per day” – while the highest attendance last year hit 124,000.

Officials added that “ongoing discussions” are taking place between the council, Underbelly and other partners “over how best to ensure public safety whilst minimising disruption”.

Labour Cllr Gordon Munro has called for reassurances that the steel scaffolding and wooden platform will be able to cope.

He said: “I would like assurances that this work, that has obviously been rigorous, in taking four months to be undertaken, also takes into account the figures that are being talked about – up to 124,000 people accessing the Christmas market.

“Is that structure able to cope with that load-bearing should those numbers be replicated? Does it take into account the weight of the goods that will be there as well? We need reassurances in that regard.”

Council engineers began assessing the platform structure since June to “double-check the calculations and proposals made by Underbelly’s own engineers” as well as to “ensure that the structure was safe”. These checks were completed on October 12.

Underbelly has also moved to reassure the public that the necessary steps will be taken to ensure the market structure is safe before it is opened to the public.

A spokesperson said: "The installation has been signed off and certified by Underbelly’s engineers, Edinburgh company Will Rudd Davidson, who have issued an SER certificate, and the design has been agreed by the Council’s engineers.

"It has been designed in accordance with the appropriate codes to comfortably accommodate the capacities expected by Edinburgh’s Christmas through its busiest periods and in all weathers. The installation is also subject to a building warrant and is therefore compliant with the Building (Scotland) Regulations."

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