Edinburgh Council rules out relocation of city’s controversial Christmas market

Princes Street Gardens. Picture: Edinburgh Christmas

City council chiefs are set to rule out relocating a controversial Christmas market out of Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens – due to the lack of a viable option anywhere else.

An emergency audit of alternative locations for the city’s money-spinning market bars, stalls and funfair is understood to have drawn a blank.

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Councillors demanded the drawing up of a shortlist of possible sites for the market to relocate to in the wake of controversy over the expansion of the market in the historic park.

There was also anger over the failure of promoters Underbelly to secure planning permission for new infrastructure before work began on site in October.

The market, the centrepiece of a Christmas festival estimated to be worth £113 million to the economy, went ahead for its normal seven-week run and attracting a record 2.63 million people to the gardens, up five per cent on the previous year.

However senior council officials are understood to be recommending the council presses ahead with the same arrangements in place for another two years as they believe there is no single location more suitable.

George Street, Princes Street, Hanover Street, Market Street and Waverley Bridge are believed to have been ruled out because they are major transport routes, while potential complaints from residents have scuppered any prospect of the market being relocated to the Meadows, the Grassmaket and Waterloo Place.

The council announced a “root and branch” review of the winter festivals, last summer, although this is aimed at shaping the events which will staged in the city from 2022.

Underbelly was given a two-year extension on its annual £800,000 contract with the city council in June in a deal, agreed behind closed doors, which allows them to stage the market in the gardens.

A council spokeswoman said: “This report gives us useful background information as we move forward to a wider conversation on our winter festivals. We look forward to working with residents and stakeholders to review this year’s event, and our staff will work with event organisers to implement any agreed improvements for next year.”

Green councillor Alex Staniforth, who instigated the review, said: “Even if the market does return to the gardens this year I hope Underbelly will take into account the strong public feelings about the impact it has and the failure to secure planning permission.”