Calls for Better Environmental Protection for Princes Street Gardens

Better environmental protections have to be in place to protect Princes Street Gardens for the benefit of Edinburgh residents, an opposition councillor has said.

Ashley Graczyk, an independent who represents Gorgie and Sighthill, issued a passionate plea to ensure that any future events held by Underbelly in the Gardens undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The plea arose from Councillor Graczyk when she said she had discovered that Underbelly’s plans for next year’s Christmas market was not seen to require an EIA when their application was sent to Edinburgh City Council.

She has also challenged the council to ensure that Underbelly does not ‘unnecessarily’ close off entry points to the Gardens that are relied upon by disabled residents of Edinburgh to access other areas of the city.

Councillor She said: “As a premier park and important cultural heritage site, we must ensure the very highest standards of protection are in place for such a precious natural asset. I am calling for an Environmental Impact Assessment for this future event to ensure that this much-loved green space is properly looked after.”

“Unfortunately, we have seen the damage that can be caused to parkland and trees by such commercial events in the past and we must be very careful to ensure this does not happen again.”

A further concern for Councillor Graczyk is the restrictions to public access to the gardens.

She added: “From the current plans, it appears that the contractors want to completely remove access to and through the gardens from Princes Street itself. Most concerningly, they want to remove disabled access from all but those prepared to buy tickets, by barricading the public walkway. We have recently spent public funds improving access to the gardens for disabled people.”

Edinburgh City Council was asked if it was in a position to ensure greater protection for Princes Street Gardens following the damage caused during the 2019/20 Christmas event. It was also asked if it would commit to ensuring that disabled access to the Gardens is not completely removed for future events held on the site.

But the council declined to issue a response to Councillor Graczyk’s calls, insisting that as a local authority it “does not comment on ongoing planning applications.”

Published in the Edinburgh News | 10th October 2020