The backers of a £25 million overhaul of Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh have insisted they will not hike up the number of major events held there in future.
A trust created by a property developer to pursue plans to replace the existing Ross Bandstand insists there will be less disruption from pop and rock gigs despite the furore over the impact of a new season of shows.
It wants a new arms-length operator to be allowed to take charge of the running of the historic park, the proposed “Ross Pavilion”, a new visitor centre boasting a cafe and corporate hospitality facilities.
Up to 200 events of varying sizes – more than six times as many as at present – are expected to be held each year under the proposed “self-financing “model, which has been put out for public consultation by the trust and the council.
Controversy has flared over this month’s Summer Sessions shows by Sir Tom Jones, Bastille, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Paloma Faith and Kasabian after it emerged that black-out boards had been erected blocking views of Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street.
After an online backlash they were removed on the orders of city council leader Adam McVey – despite being recommended by officials to ensure public safety on Princes Street during the gigs. The authority later announced that the pavement on the north side of the thoroughfare and several bus stops will be closed while the remaining concerts are held.
The Ross Development Trust was set up two years ago by Apex Hotels founder Norman Springford to pursue the concert arena development.
The proposed pavilion would replace the existing bandstand, which dates back to 1935. It was built to replace an earlier facility which was gifted to the city by whisky tycoon William Henry Ross.
An international design competition was staged to choose a winning concept, which was unveiled just over a year ago.
However, detailed design work has been put on hold until it becomes clear how the gardens will be run when the new facilities are complete.
Mr Springford’s trust has attempted to calm fears from heritage watchdogs that there will be growing commercialisation of the gardens once they are revamped, and insists there will be a strict limit on the number of pop and rock gigs staged there.
However, according to the consultation, theatre, comedy, dance, visual art exhibitions and children’s shows could all be held there in future.
David Ellis, managing director of the trust, said: “The proposed improvements to West Princes Street Gardens are focused on providing a wonderful new venue to be used primarily as a community performance space.
“There are a few pre-existing major events that take place annually within the gardens, which would be retained but not increased.
“However, with the planned infrastructure and venue improvements we hope to make, the disruption caused by these major events will be reduced.
“Our proposal is for an increase in the number of small community activities, contained within the new pavilion building, therefore not impacting on anyone’s use of the gardens.
“It is important to stress that one of our main objectives is to make the gardens more accessible and available to the people of Edinburgh, not to prevent them from accessing it.”