Princes Street Gardens Christmas market to undergo last-minute checks amid calls for responsibility

Council officials are carrying out final checks on the controversial Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens this morning - while calls have been made for the council to take responsibility for concerns raised about the event management.

Saturday, 16th November 2019, 7:45 am
Underbelly's Christmas market being built in Princes Street Gardens

Final checks for the Capital’s controversial Christmas market are set to go down to the wire with two licences still to be approved before the public can enjoy any festive fun.

Underbelly’s event will open its doors to the public in East Princes Street Gardens this afternoon – despite no planning permission being granted. No planning application was handed over for last year’s event either and Edinburgh City Council, seemingly unaware, did not take any enforcement action against the company.

Underbelly has received a building warrant for a scaffolding structure built in the gardens – but is still awaiting the green light for both market operator and public entertainment licences which will be signed off by council public safety officials, with final checks scheduled for Saturday morning.

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Council officials have asked for minor snagging work to take place, including for signage and fencing around trees before the event is opened to the public, which is routine for this type of operation and not relating to the structure itself.

Council leader, Cllr Adam McVey, said: “There has been much debate over the layout of the market in East Princes Street Gardens and understandably, residents want assurances that the Gardens are protected and the safety and comfort of all those attending the markets is secured.

“The building warrant has been granted and our public safety officers are carrying out final inspections and checks. Be in no doubt, the site will not open until the council is 100 per cent satisfied that is it safe.”

Conservatives are demanding the authority takes responsibility for the situation, which has been the subject of a public backlash.

Tory Cllr Phil Doggart said: “What we are finding is there are a number of council departments that frankly have been asleep at the wheel – that can probably be extended to a number of administration conveners who are totally unaware of what is happening in the functions they are responsible for.

“When we piece everything together, it does seem the administration is not paying attention to one of the most significant events that happens in the city each year.

“People do need to take responsibility and possibly council officers and conveners should be considering their positions. But who has done what, when and why remains unknown at this stage.”

An internal investigation has been launched by the council into whether the correct processes were followed – with a report set to be presented to the corporate sustainability and policy committee later this month.

Cllr Doggart added: “Underbelly has been given the freedom to do almost as it wishes from the council.

“They are a commercial organisation and if they see the opportunity to make additional profit because the council is not doing its job properly, that’s the council’s fault.”

Cllr McVey has asked the council’s chief executive, Andrew Kerr, to head an investigation into the fiasco with all of the authority’s departments to be involved.

An Underbelly spokesperson said: “The finishing touches are now happening at the market and we are looking forward to opening it to the public.”

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