City chiefs set out parks 'manifesto'

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STRICT limits would be imposed on the number of events taking place in the city's parks under a new strategy for managing Edinburgh's growing events calendar.

The number of shows, festivals and sporting events taking place in the capital's green spaces has grown by more than 200 per cent in the past four years, with an average of five events a week.

The pressure on the city's parks and infrastructure – such as the damage to the Meadows caused by holding events such as the Moonwalk during wet weather last year – has forced officials to come up with a plan to improve the management of events. Guidelines – dubbed a "manifesto" by city leaders – will be drawn up to control the use of the most popular parks.

An annual allowance on the number of private events in each park, scheduled turf resting periods and weight limits for heavy vehicles will be considered.

Officials are also to look at improving drainage and installing toughened grass surfaces.

Local campaigners and opposition politicians today said the new strategy was long overdue, adding any new guidelines should take account of residents' views.

Chris Wigglesworth, convener of the Friends of the Meadows campaign group, which has been leading the fight against events returning to the park this year, said: "I welcome the council's somewhat slow progress to an actual structure and policy on events in the city. We all know the benefits of these events but the council has to respect the special character of these green spaces."

Hosting the city's hundreds of events costs the council around 2.7 million a year in work to close roads, make traffic management arrangements and cleaning. The events, combined with the festivals, bring in more than 250m a year to the city's economy.

Paul Godzik, the city's Labour Party culture and leisure spokesman, said: "This plan is long overdue and it is important that while we recognise the importance of events to the city, we also take on board the views of people who live near, and use the parks."

The city's Festival and Events Champion, Cllr Steve Cardownie, said: "Edinburgh has an excellent track record of hosting world-class events and festivals.

"Striking this balance between events use and sustainability is vital if we are to maintain and, indeed, enhance, our reputation on the world stage."

Campaigners had called for a ban on all events running longer than a few days in the Meadows to allow the park to recover from damage caused last summer. However, city leaders look set to allow major events – including the Meadows Festival Funfair and the Urban Circus – under plans to be put before councillors later this month.