£150,000 bill to repair East Princes Street Gardens after Christmas Market

The gardens were left looking like a mud bath after the Christmas Market left its temporary home in January.

East Princes Street Gardens was left a mudbath following the Christmas Market.
East Princes Street Gardens was left a mudbath following the Christmas Market.

The cost of reinstating East Princes Street Gardens to its “beautiful best” was more than £150,000, three times higher than previous years, the Evening News can reveal.

Pictures in the early part of the year showed the gardens to be in a terrible state, with some suggesting that the Nor Loch had reappeared due to the constant flooding and mud during the winter.

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Underbelly, the producers of Edinburgh’s Christmas and the Christmas Market, paid the council in full for the works as is part of their contract to deliver the event.

Damage to grass in Princes Street Gardens after Edinburgh Christmas markets on January 10, 2020.

However, the council also stumped up an additional £40,000 for drainage work on the site which led to the delay in the gardens reopening fully to the public, works which delayed the opening until as recently as the last couple of weeks.

The reason for the increase in cost was two-fold, Underbelly told the Evening News, with there being more ground to reinstate following the expansion to the south side of the railway line for the first time.

The banks installed as part of the National Galleries of Scotland works, which caused the design of the market to be revisited for 2019 and led to the eventual ‘space-deck’ design, were also blamed for the rising costs, with Underbelly stating they are “more costly to reinstate”.

Underbelly added that “no decisions” have been made about 2020’s Christmas Market and Hogmanay which are under threat due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

East Princes Street Gardens on January 16, 2020.

A spokesman for the entertainment company said: “Edinburgh’s Christmas, produced by Underbelly, pays all the costs of reinstating the gardens and no costs are passed on to the council tax payer. The drainage works are for long term improvements to the Gardens and are not a direct result of the Winter Festivals taking place.

“While there are active discussions ongoing about the 2020 Winter Festivals, no decisions have yet been made. Every aspect of our thinking for 2020 puts Edinburgh’s residents, businesses and communities first.”

Conservative Lothian MSP Miles Briggs said the Christmas Market and the Winter Festivals must be “in the best interests of Edinburgh”.

He said: “The dramatic increase in the cost for reinstatement works at East Princess Street Gardens shows the extent of damage caused by the Winter Festival.

“Whilst the Christmas Festival is a popular destination for residents and visitors in December, this must be weighed against East Princess Street Gardens being inaccessible at other times in the year.

“I will continue to engage with Edinburgh Council to make sure a that plans for the Christmas Festival are in the best interests of Edinburgh residents and businesses.”

Culture and communities vice convener, Cllr Amy McNeese-Mechan, said: “East Princes Street Gardens were fully reopened last month, with all works now complete, it’s great to see residents enjoying the gardens and new accessible paths.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience as work was underway to restore the garden. During this time we also took the opportunity to undertake drainage improvement works - the benefit of the drainage is that it will enable the lower lawn to recover much more quickly following heavy rainfall and allow our residents and visitors to have greater use.

“I want to thank the parks team for their continued hard work to complete the reinstatement during this difficult period.

“The Council will discuss plans for this year’s Christmas and Hogmanay events once the appropriate public health advice is available.”

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