'Princes Street Gardens Christmas market should be moved' as no planning application to be tabled until January

Calls have been made to move a controversial Christmas market out of Princes Street Gardens after it emerged the company behind the event cannot submit a planning application until three weeks after it has finished operating.

Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 5:09 pm
The Christmas market being built in Princes Street Gardens
The Christmas market being built in Princes Street Gardens

A city centre councillor has called for a controversial Christmas market to be hauled out of Princes Street Gardens after it was revealed a planning application cannot be handed over until three weeks after the event is due to finish.

Underbelly has now published a proposal of application notice (PAN) for its plans to hold a Christmas market at East Princes Street Gardens. But the submission comes with a minimum 12-week period for consultation – meaning a full planning application cannot be lodged until January 24 at the earliest.

Edinburgh City Council has launched an internal investigation into whether the correct processes were followed in approving the event’s extension – while a building standards application estimates the development including the scaffolding and platform is valued at £145,000. Underbelly has rubbished safety concerns raised about the structure.

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If the planning application is approved, the permission would cover this year’s event retrospectively as well as further events in 2020 and 2021.

A briefing note sent to councillors by the authority’s director of place, Paul Lawrence, highlights that Underbelly was told it needed to submit a planning application at a meeting on August 30 – but did not submit their PAN until late last week. The company said the delays were caused by hold-ups on the council’s part.

A spokesperson said: “Underbelly is working to timelines led by the council, which have not been within our control.

“As indicated previously it only became possible to progress the PAN and planning application once the plans were signed off with the council on October 12. We are expediting the next possible steps in the process as fast as is possible.”

The limited PAN documents include a letter sent to the council on behalf of Underbelly by the company’s agent, Turley, admitting that “the development is categorised as ‘major development’ as the gross floor space of the proposed structures exceeds 5,000 square metres”.

A public exhibition of the proposals will take place at the Scotsman Hotel on Tuesday 26 November from 2pm until 8pm – while residents can comment on the proposals online.

A city centre councillor is now calling on the local authority to shift the event out of the gardens – due to the lack of valid planning permission for the event.

Green Cllr Claire Miller said: “I am working hard to get to the bottom of this mystery on behalf of baffled residents. It’s incomprehensible that Underbelly would only just be at the stage of submitting a planning application in January – after the Christmas market has finished.

“Residents who have been looking forward to the market and the fairground rides should still have a chance to have fun this Christmas, so I’m calling for the council to provide an alternative place to hold the market in the city centre. Let’s make sure Christmas isn’t cancelled.”

The council said that the design of the market was agreed on October 12, which then allowed for the planning application to proceed.

A council spokesperson said: “The final assessments of the scaffolding structure and any necessary amendments were concluded on October 12.

“It was therefore appropriate to request a retrospective planning application – this is now being progressed.”

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