'Get a grip': Readers react to news Edinburgh's Christmas Market does not have planning permission

The expanded market with scaffolding built over East Princes Street Gardens does not have the required planning permission, with calls for an emergency review ahead of its opening in November.

Monday, 28th October 2019, 10:45 am
The scaffolding in East Princes Street Gardens.

The Capital's leading heritage body, the Cockburn Association, called for an emergency review and a potential delay to the opening of the Christmas Market after it was revealed the new extended market did not have the required planning permission.

Cockburn Association director, Terry Levinthal, said the £110 million market should not open on November 16 unless a solution is found or a planning application is submitted.

The Christmas Market, run by Underbelly, is expanding this year, taking over more of the gardens in a revamped layout with a record 163 stalls and bars spread across East Princes Street Gardens and The Mound precinct.

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The scaffolding in East Princes Street Gardens.

Edinburgh City Council said discussions are ongoing with Underbelly, who said they are now compiling a planning application.

Spirit of Christmas 'long gone'

However, many readers reacted angrily to the revelation that Underbelly had not submitted the required planning application.

On the Evening News Facebook page, Jacqueline Dunn said: "Corporate fake fun! Greed and commercialism! The true spirit of Christmas has long gone."

Tricia Forbes added that she wished for the return of the Edinburgh Christmases of her childhood. She said: "Oh, for the lovely Edinburgh Christmases of my childhood. Then, this beautiful city was treated with the respect it deserved. Now it'll be tackier and cheaper than ever."

Others called for the scaffolding and the market to stop construction. Caroline Walker said: "If this was any other property it would be made to take it down until proper permission was in place."

John Whyte agreed, he said: "Take it down, or the whole planning process is a joke."

Richard Thomson added: "Oh does that mean I can put scaffolding up where ever I like and build stuff and no worry about planning permission."

'Get a grip'

However, some did not agree with calls for the market to be taken down and said people should just enjoy Christmas.

Lauren Stewart said: "Get a grip. Enjoy Christmas."

Guy Turner added: "Let it carry on. It brings a lot of happy children and adults to Edinburgh. It happens every year so why change it now."

Susan Downie defended the market as a whole and said provided standards were met, it should not be stopped.

She said: "Many major cities have a Christmas market. They are a draw card for both locals and tourists. In winter the area covered is a grassy area- not sure what it’s stopping locals from enjoying.

"Of course all safety and council standards should be adhered to, but I do t see an issue with the concept of the market itself as some do."

'Discussions are continuing'

Both the council and Underbelly said discussions about planning are ongoing, with Underbelly stating that a planning application is being compiled for the market.

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesman said: “Edinburgh’s Christmas continues to grow in popularity and not just with visitors.

“Just last year over 186,000 tickets were purchased for Christmas rides, attractions and shows by resident’s using their 20 per cent discount (a 31 per cent increase on 2017).

“This year’s infrastructure is in place to ensure that the Gardens – including the areas benefiting from National Galleries of Scotland’s improvement works – are preserved. The redesign of the space will also address the concerns last year around large crowds and circulation.

“Discussions between Underbelly and planning officers are ongoing."

An Underbelly spokesman said: “Underbelly agreed with the Council that it was not possible to make a planning application until the plans had been agreed with the Council as the landlord of Edinburgh’s Christmas.

“Discussions about the plans began with the Council in April and were not agreed until October 12. Following that agreement, Underbelly is now compiling its planning application which it will submit at the earliest possible opportunity.

“The scaffold currently going in allows the Christmas market to continue in the gardens while working round the ongoing changes to the landscape and also ensures we are taking every measure to protect the gardens.”