This blog was first publised in August 2017.
Might plans for a make-over for Edinburgh’s West Princes Street Gardens lead to a partial privatisation of an iconic public space?
West Princes Street Gardens in the centre of Edinburgh are an outstanding feature of the city. They sit below the spectacular castle. A bandstand is at the centre of the gardens. It has long been used as the venue for the concert that accompanies the firework display to mark the closing of the annual Edinburgh Festival. In more recent years it has also been packed for a pop concert each New Year’s Eve. However the Council-owned bandstand has been allowed to deteriorate to the point where it now is described as “not fit for use”.
A local businessman has come forward with £5M as the first step to “regenerate” the gardens. The centrepiece is to be a new performance arena capable of hosting events 365 days a year. The winner of an international design competition has recently been announced. It is an entry by a team led by the US firm wHY.
My article in The Scotsman raises a number of questions. Most fundamentally it asks, “Is this a creeping privatisation of common good land?” Press reports have spoken of a lease agreement for part of the gardens. There is an intention to make more use of the area for corporate hospitality and for large and small events that can operate 365 days a year. You can read my full article here.
The plans for the gardens sit against a backdrop of growing civic concern about new developments that threaten the very character of central Edinburgh as a World Heritage Site. On the same day that my article appeared in The Scotsman, The Times published a letter from me on this same theme. It followed other articles in The Times about controversial developments in Edinburgh.