Officials pull plug on bid to extend big screen’s hours
LATE night coverage of the Olympics on the BBC Big Screen is set to be blocked after planning chiefs said it would lead to “uncontrollable” noise for homeowners and guests at the Sheraton Hotel.
BBC chiefs have asked to screen live events including football at Festival Square and extend times to 12.45am for the opening and closing ceremonies.
It was intended that crowds would descend on the site each day for live coverage beginning as early as 6am and running until 11.30pm.
But city planners said they could not support the bid and said they had already received two noise complaints over the current level of coverage.
When the structure was built in 2009 BBC chiefs intended the Olympics to be shown but the application for extended hours has only now been made.
The Big Screen operates 24 hours per day although sound is only enabled between 7.30am and 10pm. It has been criticised in the past for failing to attract viewers despite costing taxpayers more than £100,000.
No events begin as early as 6am but planners said the BBC had claimed that viewers will need time to get into position.
The earliest event being televised is women’s air rifle on July 28 at 8.15am followed by a number of events at 8.30am, including women’s hockey.
The latest events to be screened include men’s beach volleyball, which runs until 11.50pm and men’s boxing, which finishes at 11.30pm.
John Bury, head of planning at the city council, said: “This department’s concern relates to the large groups of people who will be attracted to the area to watch the proposed events.
“During events like football matches, crowd noise is likely to be largely uncontrollable and potentially a cause for amenity loss for local residents and disturbing the surrounding hotel.
“Services for communities have already received two noise complaints regarding the current operations of the screen.”
Ann Wigglesworth, secretary of Tollcross Community Council, said: “We need to see more detail but we would be wary of it. We would be concerned about any late-night public noise in the area after 11pm and we would prefer it not to be open until 10am the next day.
“Broadcasts that can only be heard by those in the square would be more desirable but if they’re amplified then we would not want it to go on after 11pm. The police are concerned about noise at takeaways during the week but this will be far more penetrating than noise from a small takeaway.”
Joanna Mowat, Conservative councillor for the City Centre, said: “I would be supporting a refusal. There has always been concern about noise from the screen – people live everywhere in the city centre.
“I cannot see why they need to have broadcasts this late, Edinburgh and London share a time zone.”
However, JP Kavanagh, general manager of the Sheraton said: “We are very excited about the Olympic Games this year. Previous screenings in Festival Square have brought a great community atmosphere so we are very much looking forward to the Games being shown live here this summer.”
No-one from BBC Big Screens was available to discuss the extended hours.
Councillors on the development management committee will decide whether to back officials or support the BBC bid next week.
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