Conservation chief calls for stop to Edinburgh's Christmas Market after organisers fail to apply for planning permission

The scale of the Christmas Market construction sparked protests about "hyper-bloated commercialism"
The scale of the Christmas Market construction sparked protests about "hyper-bloated commercialism"
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Underbelly failed to request planning permission for the Christmas Market despite being informed in August 2019 that consent was needed.

THE Capital's leading conservation body, Cockburn Association, claimed earlier today that Christmas Market organisers should have obtained planning permission before putting up massive scaffolding in Princes Street Gardens.

In a Twitter thread this afternoon, the Cockburn Association said: "We have had confirmation that Planning Permission is required and no Planning Application has been received to date.

"We have been told that Underbelly was informed in August 2019 that consent was needed.

"It is unlikely that any decision, if an application were received forthwith, will be made this year."

Underbelly has responded to the matter, pointing out that discussions with the Council on the Christmas market began in April and that it had not been possible to submit a planning application until plans had been agreed.

They say a planning application will be submitted at the earliest available opportunity.

Cliff Hague, the Chair of the Cockburn Association, said: "There is a case for immediately issuing a Temporary Stop Notice, given that it appears that no planning application was lodged despite advice to do so, and in view of the scale and location of the development and the time it would now take to process an application.

The conservation body earlier argued the scale of the construction and the fact it will be up for more than 28 days means it ought to have been approved through the official planning process.

The Cockburn wrote to the council to ask if a planning application was submitted for the scaffolding.

The association's letter says: "It strikes us that this should be defined as development and therefore falls within the scope of the Planning Acts. It also seems clear to us that this structure will be in place for more than 28 days, indicating that it shouldn’t be considered a temporary use and therefore have permitted development rights.

In reaction to the news, several people on Twitter have commented on Underbelly's failure to request permission.

One user, Graeme Purves‏, said: "I suppose it is too much to hope that Edinburgh Council will take enforcement action to have the monstrous structure removed?"

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said: “Edinburgh’s Christmas continues to grow in popularity and not just with visitors.

“Just last year over 186,000 tickets were purchased for Christmas rides, attractions and shows by resident’s using their 20 per cent discount (a 31 per cent increase on 2017).

“This year’s infrastructure is in place to ensure that the Gardens – including the areas benefiting from National Galleries of Scotland’s improvement works – are preserved. The redesign of the space will also address the concerns last year around large crowds and circulation.

“Discussions between Underbelly and planning officers are ongoing."

An Underbelly spokesman said: “Underbelly agreed with the Council that it was not possible to make a planning application until the plans had been agreed with the Council as the landlord of Edinburgh’s Christmas.

“Discussions about the plans began with the Council in April and were not agreed until October 12. Following that agreement, Underbelly is now compiling its planning application which it will submit at the earliest possible opportunity.

“The scaffold currently going in allows the Christmas market to continue in the gardens while working round the ongoing changes to the landscape and also ensures we are taking every measure to protect the gardens.”