Princes Street Gardens Christmas market licensing applications to be determined behind closed doors

Unelected council officials will determine Underbelly's licensing applications for a controversial Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens after the councillor responsible said she was content for delegated authority to be used.

Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 6:00 am
The scaffolding being constructed in Princes Street Gardens for the Christmas market
The scaffolding being constructed in Princes Street Gardens for the Christmas market

Licensing applications for this year’s Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens are set to be determined behind closed doors by unelected officials – despite calls for councillors to scrutinise the proposals.

The controversial market, which has raised fears over lack of planning permission and correct processes being followed, will need licences to operate. Green city centre Cllr Claire Miller asked Edinburgh City Council’s licensing officials why councillors were not being given a chance to scrutinise the applications, given the public interest – but she was told that licensing sub-committee convener, SNP Cllr Cathy Fullerton is content with officials determining the plans under delegated authority.

Cllr Miller said: “I had asked why licence decisions were being made by officers when I felt that the market had become sufficiently controversial that elected members should be taking decisions at committee.

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“He (the council’s licensing manager) has replied he has consulted with the convener, Cllr Cathy Fullerton, and ‘she remains of the view that this year’s applications can be dealt with under delegated powers as there is no significant changes to any of the licenses which are proposed compared to previous years’.”

Cllr Miller added: “I think residents would probably disagree and say that the market has significantly changed since last year, given that it is now covering the whole of East Princes Street Gardens including south of the railway line, and is built on a huge scaffold.

“If residents agree with me, then I’ll get in touch with the convener to let her know that we do think there is significant change this year and that we think the licences need to be considered by committee.”

Labour Cllr Scott Arthur, who sits on the committee has seen his request for scrutiny ignored by Cllr Fullerton.

He said: “Residents in my ward are becoming increasingly concerned that decisions taken behind closed doors by council officers appear to making a complete mockery of the regulations which exist to protect the public.

“Given the intense public interest, I am disappointed that the licensing sub-committee convener has not even replied to my request for councillors of all parties to scrutinise licensable activity within the Christmas market. We scrutinise applications for bouncy castles on Cramond foreshore, so why not a huge Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens?”

Cllr Fullerton said: “As was agreed by the licensing sub-committee last year, the determination of market and public entertainment licences for Edinburgh’s Christmas market will be made under delegated authority, as long as there have been no significant changes to licensable activity, as was considered to be the case this year.”

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