Christmas market and trees

Green City Centre councillor Claire Miller updates on the twists and turns of tree loss in East Princes Street Gardens.

Last week I set out my views on the loss of 50 trees in Princes Street Gardens. I remain angry at the scale of tree loss and determined to ensure that replacement is in greater numbers than the minimum required.

This week, on Thursday 1 November, campaigners and residents posted pictures on social media of platforms being put in place on the slopes where the trees used to be. These platforms are to host commercial stalls and activities for the Christmas period. I had already been aware of concern that expanding the Christmas market was an underlying motivation for cutting down trees, even though the planning process justified their loss as being for a disabled access and to restore original views along the valley. I have said publicly, that even if there was a shred of linkage between the Christmas attractions and the tree loss, that would be totally unacceptable.

So, over the last week I have been seeking assurances that there is no connection between the Christmas market and the tree felling. I understand, from speaking to senior council officers that the platform which was installed last year at the Christmas market was in the same position as it is currently, and that it butted up against tree trunks to make use of all of the available space. Obviously there are issues with that practice, and I heard from concerned residents last year who described to me how the placement of the Christmas market would cause soil compaction and damage tree roots leading to poorer tree health. So, the overall message is that there is no change to the Christmas festival from the tree-cutting. Obviously, I remain open to hear people’s thoughts on that assurance, especially if they have evidence to the contrary.

However, I am not at all content to leave it there. The correspondence that I received last year and this year, coupled with the ongoing conversations I’ve had with residents about the increased commerciality and number of events in our parks, leads me to believe that the city needs a change to policy. I am going to seek a review into locations for events and attractions held in the city centre. I believe that we need to locate events in suitable places. We already have purpose-designed locations, for example Castle Street, which are ideally suited to occasional events taking place. We need to protect parks and green spaces and respect those environments.

The Christmas market and other attractions are enjoyed by many people. But they need to be at a scale and impact which enhances the city centre and, in particular, our most precious and fragile spaces.