THE ice rink in Princes Street Gardens has long been a focal point of Edinburgh’s transformation into a Christmas winter wonderland.
But in a significant spin on recent tradition, the Evening News can reveal the popular ice attraction will go in front of The Dome on George Street this year, under a revamp planned by festival organisers.
The move, however, has already attracted a frosty reception from some fed up traders – who feel it would have been best left in the Gardens. One said: “It will not bring trade and I think it’s just a poorly thought through proposal.” The skate escape is being cooked up by Edinburgh firm Unique Events and London-based outfit Underbelly.
They won the right to run the six-week Christmas festival for the first time in February, ending six years in charge for Durham-based She’s Gott It!
Under their plan, the section of George Street from St Andrew Square to Hanover Street would be closed from late November to January as part of the ice rink’s relocation.
Organisers have promised a “totally re-imagined programme of Christmas events and attractions”, with a focus on family entertainment.
Construction of the ice rink would likely start in September. The plan was put to business owners at a meeting at the George Hotel last week.
But we can reveal many of them are already cold on the idea, citing the fact the Spiegelterrace will disrupt the upmarket street during the festival – just before work on the proposed rink gets underway.
Ronnie Urquhart, chief executive of George Street based County Properties Group, is less than impressed.
He said: “We’re going to have a respite of a few short weeks and then we’re going to lose George Street again for the best part of two, maybe three months. In my view, the ice rink shouldn’t be on George Street. It doesn’t add to the ambience of George Street – far from it.”
However, Green group leader Councillor Steve Burgess welcomed the move – especially as siting the ice rink in the Gardens has played havoc with the lawns in the past.
He said: “The damage at Princes Street Gardens in recent years – and I’ve complained about this – has been appalling. It’s caused so much damage the repair work has excluded the public from the use of the gardens for most of the year. You’re getting into the summer and people still can’t go on the grass down there. A hard-standing alternative for the rink would be good.”
An Underbelly spokesman said further details of the revamped festival would be revealed next month, adding: “We’re looking to make Edinburgh a fantastic destination for Christmas. It’ll benefit the traders and the residents as well as tourists.”
We revealed this week how George Street traders are already coming to grips with council proposals to remove half of the car parking spaces along the business strip.