A big top in the Meadows: Our initial thoughts

POSTED ON May 21, 2021

Our initial thoughts on a planning application by an event company to erect a large fenced-off compound in Edinburgh’s Meadows

Since alerting the Edinburgh public to the recent planning application submitted by Underbelly for installation of a Festival Circus Hub in the Meadows, we have been overwhelmed with responses from members of the public by email and on our social media channels.

Ahead of full consideration by members of the Cockburn’s Policy & Development Committee (PaD) we have formulated some initial views on the application. After the Committee has deliberated on the matter, we will submit our formal comments on the planning portal and publish them on our own responses archive.

Interim thoughts

Firstly, in a response to the City Council’s Planning Committee on the relaxation of planning control considered at its meeting of 18 May 2021, the Cockburn said, “we have great sympathy for local businesses who have been hardest hit by the lockdown restrictions.  We agree that it is essential for the local economy to get back on its feet and to get the iconic Festivals back in operation.”

The Cockburn first heard of this application at that meeting.  The scale and impact of this installation is such that a planning application was required even in the context of the temporary relaxation of control for Summer Festival installations during Covid emergency measures. It appears as if no consent for use had been sought in the past.

Fundamentally, we believe that soft landscaped areas should not be used for events that require heavy infrastructure due to the damage that they cause.  It is evident that past damage from previous uses remains.  The proximity to trees causes further concern due to the potential compaction of root systems leading to long-term decay or even loss.  We are concerned that this application has indicated that there are no trees in close proximity to the proposed development which is sited between two tree-lined walks through the Meadows.

There are other sites in the city where we would welcome this event.  Festival Square and the related Conference Square provides a hard surfaced area more than capable of hosting this event this year, close to Princes Street and a variety of public transport corridors.

In addition, we strongly advocate that pop-up food and drink facilities should be deleted from the proposals.  It is more important in our view that established, permanent year-round neighbouring pubs and restaurants benefit from any trade associated with this type of use.

If you would like to comment upon the application you will find it on the Council’s website here. Closing date is June 11th 2021.

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