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Safety row breaks out over Edinburgh’s Christmas market

Councillors call for assurances temporary platform can cope with 100,000 people a day.

Hundreds of thousands flock to Edinburgh at Christmas. <strong>Flickr/ Craig Murphy - http://www.flickr.com/photos/craigmurphy/11360709305/</strong>
Hundreds of thousands flock to Edinburgh at Christmas. Flickr/ Craig Murphy - http://www.flickr.com/photos/craigmurphy/11360709305/

The company behind the Christmas market in Edinburgh has insisted its constructed platform will be able to cope with hundreds of thousands of festive revellers.

Underbelly has been criticised for its festive plans in Princes Street Gardens.

Planning permission still hasn’t been granted for the temporary development, despite the market being set to open on November 16.

Edinburgh City Council has also launched an investigation into whether the correct processes were followed in handing Underbelly a two-year extension to its contract.

Councillors have now called for assurances that the platform, built across the gardens in order to “protect new landscaping” for renovation work to the Scottish National Gallery, will be able to take the weight of more than 100,000 people daily – as well as the 163 market stalls and bars – and all the goods.

A briefing note circulated to councillors points out that “weekend attendance to the market regularly exceeds 100,000 per day” – while the highest attendance last year hit 124,000.

Officials added that “ongoing discussions” are taking place between the council, Underbelly and other partners “over how best to ensure public safety whilst minimising disruption”.

Labour councillor Gordon Munro has called for reassurances that the steel scaffolding and wooden platform will be able to cope.

He said: “I would like assurances that this work, that has obviously been rigorous, in taking four months to be undertaken, also takes into account the figures that are being talked about – up to 124,000 people accessing the Christmas market.

“Is that structure able to cope with that load-bearing should those numbers be replicated? Does it take into account the weight of the goods that will be there as well? We need reassurances in that regard.”

Council engineers began assessing the platform structure since June to “double-check the calculations and proposals made by Underbelly’s own engineers” as well as to “ensure that the structure was safe”.

These checks were completed on October 12.

Underbelly has also moved to reassure the public that the necessary steps will be taken to ensure the market structure is safe before it is opened to the public.

A spokesperson said: “The platform is assessed and verified by Underbelly’s engineers and by council engineers and has been designed to accommodate the capacities expected by Edinburgh’s Christmas.

“The platform is also subject to building standard certification before opening.”

Story by local democracy reporter David Bol


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