George Street businesses object to ice rink plan

Edinburgh's Christmas ice rink. Plans are afoot to send the rink to George Street. Picture: TSPL
Edinburgh's Christmas ice rink. Plans are afoot to send the rink to George Street. Picture: TSPL
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BUSINESSES along Edinburgh’s flagship shopping street have objected to the planned relocation of the Winter Festival over fears it will cause a slump in takings.

Proposals to move the Christmas events to George Street will involve road closures to make way for the transfer of the ice rink from Princes Street Gardens to the retail thoroughfare.

The Scotsman has also learned that a towering 200ft theme park attraction named The Star Flyer will be added to the project.

St Andrew Square would also feature a large bar with a canopy running around the main monument in addition to the arrival of the Spiegeltent at the same site.

Princes Street Gardens has been the focus of festive celebrations for more than a decade, but Edinburgh City Council said the ground and the grass had become increasingly damaged in recent years.

The ice rink will be located outside The Dome and the Le Monde hotel at the east end of George Street, with traffic diversions in place.

City leaders said the plans to relocate the events – to be finalised by 21 June – will benefit traders on George Street.

However, Essential Edinburgh, which represents 600 city centre traders, is currently polling its members and it is understood that around two-thirds have said they are against, or have concerns, over the move.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said: “Everyone is agreed that any measure to liven up the city and bring more people into the city centre over Christmas is a welcome move.

“At the moment we are looking at how and where some of the attractions are going to be placed and whether these are the best locations for them.”

It is understood that Standard Life raised some objections over the original location of the Star Flyer directly outside their offices.

Anna Somerville, director of Covet Designer Accessories on Thistle Street, said many traders were concerned about the impact.

“We should be doing everything we can to ensure the high street is thriving, but I believe all of these plans are a huge obstacle to getting into town”, she said.

“We also feel that with drinking and the arrival of outdoor Portaloos, that is going to attract the wrong sort of crowd.”

The Star Flyer, also found in Manchester, Vienna, Copenhagen, is intended to attract families to the shopping district in the evenings.

Underbelly was awarded the new contract in February, taking over from the Durham firm She’s Gott It!

Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals champion, said: “There is no doubt that these proposals are exciting and the people of Edinburgh will be enthralled by what is on offer.

“The Christmas offering in Edinburgh hasn’t looked the same in recent years and we know that Underbelly understands what is befitting of a capital city. We are mindful that The Dome and Le Monde are important to the area’s economy and we will work to ensure these events are of benefit to them.”