Edinburgh’s gardens arena set to host 200 events a year

The winning concept in a competition to design the new facility was unveiled last August. Picture: contributed
The winning concept in a competition to design the new facility was unveiled last August. Picture: contributed
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Up to 200 events will be staged in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens each year under plans to hand over the running of the park to an arms-length operator, city council officials have admitted.

The £25 million arena would host nearly seven times as many events as it does at present under a new income generation plan for the park.

Proceeds from the events will help maintain new infrastructure which will replace the existing Ross Bandstand and concrete bowl beneath Edinburgh Castle.

The council has joined forced with the Ross Development Trust, which has been set up by property developer Norman Springford, to pursue an overhaul of the gardens after the current facilities were branded “not fit for purpose.”

Their proposed “self-sufficient” model has been put out for consultation for the next 12 weeks by the city council in response to criticism from heritage groups that there had not been enough scrutiny of a proposed “arms-length company” which would have responsibility for the gardens.

Events would be staged within the proposed Ross Pavilion and a multi-storey “garden gateway” complex overlooking the arena.

Among the new events being considered are live music, theatre, comedy, dance, exhibitions, talks and children’s shows.

The official consultation document said the project represented an opportunity to “evolve Edinburgh’s reputation as a world class city of heritage and culture, blending history and tradition with contemporary energies”.

However, no changes are planned to the number of large-scale events, including the annual Hogmanay concert and the Edinburgh International Festival’s fireworks finale. The gardens will remain open to the public for all other events and under the ownership of the council.

The consultation document states: “This programme will form a large part of the income generation plan for the venue. It will ensure the new facilities are self-sufficient and allow for ongoing investment.”

Crunch talks were held earlier this year between the city council and the trust after concerns were raised concerns about who would be responsible for their upkeep.

Apex Hotels founder Mr Springford has offered to help bankroll the replacement for the Ross Bandstand and the creation of a cafe-bar, corporate hospitality facilities and events space offering direct access from Princes Street.

A winning concept was chosen last August after an international design contest which attracted 125 entries and was won by American architectural practice WHY.

Council culture convener Donald Wilson said: “The gardens are an important public asset for all of Edinburgh to experience. They will remain in public ownership and under council control for every­body to enjoy.

“If approved, the arms-length organisation would be established to ensure this remains the case, while allowing the flexibility for the trust and other important stakeholders to raise the required investment for the future pavilion and other key areas of infrastructure.”

David Ellis, managing director of the Ross Development Trust, said: “Receiving feedback from the public will be extremely beneficial to the project as we continue to move forward.”