IT was billed as the Capital’s perfect winter wonderland – but now it has become a snow-go area.
St Andrew Square Garden has been left bare and “swamp-like” after it was used as a base for Edinburgh’s Christmas festivities.
The grim result of stalls, bars and a temporary ice rink set up for the celebrations and removed earlier this month is a muddy patch of land almost completely devoid of grass.
Festival organisers at Underbelly will pay for new turf to be laid down late next month, as business improvement group Essential Edinburgh, which manages the square, looks to ease the demand on the site so the ground can recover.
It is hoped that residents and visitors will have full access to the garden soon after the turf is replaced, although this will depend on the weather and how quickly the grass regrows.
But angry residents have slammed the square’s “squelching” and “hideous” state and said a change of approach to using the site as a festivals venue would be needed to avoid serious long-term damage.
Ian Mowat, chair of New Town and Broughton Community Council, said: “I thought it looked really bad – we’re concerned about whether using the square twice a year is really too intensive and we would like a review of that by the council in terms of whether it’s appropriate.
“I don’t think we can cordon off St Andrew Square for the summer festival – the question is over how intensively it’s being used and whether we should be using it in winter as well.
“Twice a year is looking too intensive and there’s the level of use. It was very heavy last summer and it was pretty heavy this winter. Some are saying there should be a general review about how spaces are used in Edinburgh.”
Leaders at heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association acknowledged Underbelly had tried to protect St Andrew Square by erecting special decking for festive installations.
But they said using it as a regular base for exhibitions and commercial events over the coming years was not sustainable.
Director Marion Williams said: “[The square] needs some TLC. By the end of February, we want to see it properly reinstated and, long term, it needs a different home.”
Bosses at Underbelly said moves to replace the turf were well under way, although they declined to say how much this would cost.
Essential Edinburgh chief executive Andy Neal said: “We do appreciate that the garden was heavily used last year and, after reviewing that, while we will maintain our programme of major events to support the city in what it is doing, we have built in more fallow periods going forward to ensure that the garden gets breathing space.
“It is also important to remember that, to a large extent, the events help to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the garden so it is important to try to find a balance.”