Princes Street Gardens barriers row during Festival sparks park usage review

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The city council has been urged to explain how Princes Street Gardens were blocked off to the public during the festival season – after a row erupted over hoardings put up around the open space.

Barriers to halt the public from having free views of the Summer Sessions concerts at the Ross Bandstand caused an uproar on social media earlier this month.

Hoardings blocked much of Princes Street Gardens from public usage

Hoardings blocked much of Princes Street Gardens from public usage

The local authority came under fire for not just blocking views of the Bandstand but also to The Castle behind. The 10ft high hoardings were not fully removed, despite a pledge by Council Leader Adam McVey to have them taken down.

Now Conservative Cllr Joanna Mowat, Convener of the council’s Governance, Risk and Best Value (GRBV) Committee, has asked for an examination of the decision-making process that led to the squabble.

In putting forward a motion to the GRBV committee calling for a report into the process, Cllr Mowat said: “This is actually about how the original decision was taken to hold the private events in the middle of the gardens in the middle of the Festival.

“There was certainly a lot of concern that came not just to me, but to other councillors, about why were the gardens being shut off to the public in the middle of the festival when people would like to access the gardens.”

She added: “It’s about the decision-making and why the events were held in the gardens in the first place and less about the hoardings up, hoardings down, who is telling people to do what.

“I think the real issue was the events in the gardens. I would just ask for a short report giving us clarity about how those decisions are taken going forward.”

In November, the council’s culture and communities committee will discuss a report by officers called Managing the Festival City, which will include lessons to be learned from this year’s events, including the issues at Princes Street Gardens.

Speaking at last week’s full council, Green Cllr Alex Staniforth said: “Although it’s not normal practice to consult on safety measures, when there is a situation where safety measures and the need for them can be predicted well in advance, and it is likely to have a serious impact on residential 
amenity, as it did with the Summer Sessions, it would actually be appropriate to consult in those situations in future.”

Labour Cllr Gordon Munro backed the call for information and requested the whole operation of Princes Street Gardens during August is investigated.

He said: “As somebody who went from St Cuthbert’s Church and then tried to go up Castle Terrace due to the crowds, I found that I could not because that footbridge that takes you to Johnston Terrace was cut off.

“It’s not just something that happened on the Princes Street side, it’s about the whole gardens itself. If that’s incorporated into the report, I would be happy with that.”