How much is a public park worth?

POSTED ON June 23, 2021

Our response to the City of Edinburgh Council’s Planning Committee’s decision to permit a private commercial event in the Meadows

The City of Edinburgh’s Council (CEC) Development Management Sub-Committee today approved the application by Underbelly to erect a Festival Big Top at Middle Meadow Walk. The Cockburn Association objected to the development, together with Tollcross and Southside Community Councils and 332 individuals, on the grounds of loss of open space in a public park.

Unfortunately, we are not surprised by this decision and are disappointed that CEC have decided to prioritise a commercial, private-access event development over its open spaces policies and the evident public desire to keep the entire Meadows free, open and accessible for recreational and amenity use.

However, we are glad that consent has been granted only for 2021 and that all structures shall be removed from the site by 5th September 2021. We are also pleased to see a condition included that requires a thorough tree survey and tree protection plan, dismissing applicant’s claim that there were no adjacent trees likely to be affected.

We also note the official acknowledgement in the planning officer’s report that there is no relevant planning history for this site, suggesting that previous operations in the Meadows did not possess the necessary and appropriate planning consents, as we suspected. We are however disappointed with the misleading statement from Council officials that the Council owns the Meadows – it does not, it is held in the Common Good Fund.

Other objections that planning officers and the Sub-Committee deemed were material to planning but were “outweighed” by other considerations included:

  • Social value of open space at this time for mental health/ wellbeing;
  • Proposal would allow use all year round;
  • Soft landscaping areas should not be used ‘ long term damage;
  • Food and drink should be deleted ‘ it does not support the local economy;
  • Conservation Area Appraisal notes area as an urban recreational park;
  • Impact on trees and soil compaction;
  • Loss of Open Space Contrary to ENV 18 of the LDP;
  • Impact on amenity including noise;
  • Impact on the skyline;
  • Increase in traffic

Finally, we welcome Planning Convenor Cllr Neil Gardiner’s closing statement, as he moved approval of the application, that his preference for such events in future years was to use areas of hard-standing, of which the city has many, and not its public parks and precious greenspaces.

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