Edinburgh Christmas market did not have planning permission in 2018, as urgent inquiry launched

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Last year's Edinburgh Christmas market operated without any planning permission, it has been revealed, ahead of this year's event which is due to start on Saturday.

A city centre councillor has been left “utterly flabbergasted” after it was revealed a controversial Christmas market operated last year without planning permission.

Scaffolding going up to build this year's Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens

Scaffolding going up to build this year's Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens

READ MORE: Edinburgh Council to investigate moving Christmas market out of Princes Street Gardens in 2020

Underbelly’s Christmas market is set to open to the pubic in East Princes Street Gardens on Saturday – with final health and safety checks expected to go up to the wire. The company has come under fire after it was discovered this year’s plans have not received planning permission, and no application is set to be formally handed over until the market has finished trading in January.

Edinburgh City Council has launched an internal investigation to determine whether the correct processes were followed in handing Underbelly a two-year contract extension.

Now it has been revealed that last year’s event operated without any planning permission after the previous permission expired in January 2018. It is not thought any enforcement action was taken by council officials.

'Utterly flabbergasted'

Green Cllr Claire Miller, who represents the city centre, said: “I am utterly flabbergasted by this lack of regard for the law, but also by the failure of this council to check consents were in place before allowing contractors on site.

“We should be setting high standards to which others aspire, instead we have shown how easy it is to flaunt the law and get away with it. This series of failures is outrageous and I will be holding both the council and Underbelly to account.”

Council leader Adam McVey has called for an urgent meeting with all council departments in order to investigate the situation.

He said: “I’m extremely disappointed that Underbelly did not apply for the proper consents for Christmas 2018/19 as it was their responsibility to do so under the contract. That said, there are clearly lessons to be learned for our own processes both in terms of contract management and enforcement.

“I’ve asked the chief executive to get to the bottom of this as a matter of urgency with a meeting of all relevant council departments to examine how this happened and give assurance this won’t happen again. Edinburgh’s Christmas has grown to be a must go attraction for tens of thousands of our residents each week as well as huge numbers of visitors so it’s important that we get the organising of this right and this situation does not reoccur.

“This year’s Edinburgh’s Christmas festivities are getting under way on Saturday, with our building standards and public safety teams carrying out final inspections and checks of the site before it opens to the public.”

An Underbelly spokesperson said: “We look forward to the enquiry that Cllr McVey has asked for and to contributing fully to the reasons why we are in the position we are now in.

“Our previous planning permission ran for four years but expired in January 2018 and we operated under the same conditions as applied for in the previous year. With the new arrangement in place, agreed by the Council on 12 October, we are in the process of applying for the next planning consent.”