Unfairground: cost of licence triples in a year

Jordan Evans who is one of the organisers of the fairground in the Meadows as part of the Meadows Festival. Picture: Greg Macvean
Jordan Evans who is one of the organisers of the fairground in the Meadows as part of the Meadows Festival. Picture: Greg Macvean
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city chiefs have been accused of driving traditional funfairs from the city amid claims they have tripled licence fees in a year.

Organisers of the annual Meadows fair were told to fork out more than £4300 just days before opening – compared to about £1500 last year.

Angry ride owners are now calling in the lawyers in a bid to claw back extra charges for the event. “I was astonished,” fair organiser John Evans, 76, from Niddrie, said. “They only gave us 36 hours’ notice and had us over a barrel.

“Yes, we need to pay our way and inflation goes up, rent goes up, but we feel we’re getting ripped off.”

Mr Evans went to pay the public entertainment licence as usual in June and was told to pay a little over £1500 for a capacity of 1000 fair goers.

But then this week he was told an extra £250 was owed per attraction just to check documents, including MOTs and insurance, bringing the eye-watering total to more than £4300.

The licence fees are on top of a £12,000 ground rental fee and other charges, including bonds and security for a fair now in its 25th year.

“We had to pay it,” Mr Evans said. “We’ve got a guy all the way up from Birmingham, from Lancaster, from Preston. I had to tell them about the increased charges and they nearly pulled off the site.”

Mr Evans, whose family has been in the business for seven generations, said lawyers for the Showmen’s Guild were now looking to reclaim the additional fees from the council. “A public entertainment licence in East Lothian is £185 and in Midlothian about the same – why is Edinburgh so extortionate? They’ll drive us out of the city,” he said.

Andy Wightman MSP said: “There’s a cultural issue here because if fees in Edinburgh become too expensive, they’ll only have commercial operators.

“They’ll lose those families who have been doing this for centuries and it will become too expensive for people.

“Edinburgh is a wealthy city broadly speaking with a lot of wealthy people, but it also has a minority in poverty and to provide a ride that costs a couple of quid improves the city.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Showmen’s Guild declined to comment while “the matter is ongoing”.

City licensing sub-committee convener, Councillor Cathy Fullerton, said fees were “fair and transparent”, with “significant” discounts for local groups. “It is essential that such well-attended events are managed properly, both in terms of health and safety and through essential licensing of amusement rides and public entertainment,” she said.