Renting out green spaces for big events generates city £285,000

THE city's parks and gardens have helped raise more than £285,000 in just over two years after being rented out for events such as the Meadows Festival and Sports Relief.

The biggest money-spinners included the Famous Grouse Tent at Roseburn Park during the Six Nations, and Inverleith Park's Taste of Edinburgh Festival, which jointly brought in more than 23,000 in the last year.

The council said all money raised went back into the upkeep of the Capital's green spaces, but there was criticism for charging people to enter public parks.

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Hundreds of events are hosted across the city's open spaces every year, but the majority do not pay any rent at all.

However, larger gatherings such as Beltane, Taste of Edinburgh, running events and the circus on the Meadows all involve payments to the council.

Local campaigner and author Andy Wightman, who was threatened with arrest last month after attempting to gain entry to Taste of Edinburgh without paying, said:

"I don't think it's appropriate for parks to restrict public access and then basically demand what I would regard as a ransom to get in. In my view, putting up fences for Taste of Edinburgh in Inverleith Park was unlawful. I was just trying to make the point that they have no authority to stop me entering."

The figures obtained by the Evening News using Freedom of Information laws also include a host of smaller payments from TV companies who used backdrops including Calton Hill and Princes Street Gardens while filming programmes such as A History of Scotland.

All rental income goes back into the council's park budget, while organisers are also required to pay a bond which is used to repair any damage.

Last year, councillors agreed to cut the maximum length of time events in the Meadows from six weeks to four after complaints about the lasting effects of large-scale gatherings.

During the dispute, promoters of the Lady Boys of Bangkok collected 5,000 signatures in support of the act staying on the Meadows during the Festival.

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Councillor Robert Aldridge, the city's environment leader, said: "Edinburgh is fortunate to benefit from many wonderful parks and green spaces.

"We recognise that these areas play a vital role in supporting the city's first-class reputation for festivals and events.

"This has to be balanced against the need to protect the park as some damage inevitably happens through increased wear and tear. All the rentals levied are invested in reinstating, maintaining and improving our green spaces."