Edinburgh Christmas market plans lodged amid contract fiasco

Three applications are seeking planning permission for amusements and stalls at Princes Street Gardens and George Street.

Edinburgh Christmas market plans lodged with city council amid contract fiasco iStock

Plans for Edinburgh’s Christmas market and ice rink have been lodged with the council despite the organisers pulling out – as it emerged crunch talks to discuss saving the festival will be held behind closed doors.

Three applications are seeking planning permission for amusements and stalls at Princes Street Gardens and George Street, amid questions over why the £5.5m deal between Angel Event Experience (AEE) and the local authority collapsed.

AEE managing director David Kohlert said in a statement earlier this week that preparations for the popular Edinburgh’s Christmas festival “were not going according to plan”.

“It became increasingly apparent to us that we were not going to be able to implement our events as originally proposed,” said Mr Kohlert, who added he will still remain involved in a “smaller capacity”.

Council chiefs have made assurances the Christmas market will still go ahead and they are now in talks with Unique Events, who are already organising the capital’s Hogmanay party, and the Edinburgh-based Assembly Festival, about taking on the contract at the last minute.

Unique Assembly Limited, a joint operation between the two companies first registered in early August, are behind the plans lodged this week.

Councillors will be asked to rubber-stamp the partnership as the new contractor at an emergency finance and resources committee on October 10.

However the council confirmed the meeting will be held in private as a “b agenda” item and said the public cannot observe due to “commercial sensitivity”.

A spokesperson added any decision taken by members will be confirmed afterwards.

With less than two months to go until Edinburgh’s Christmas kicks off, Unique Assembly Ltd have begun the formal process to gain planning permission for the festive city centre attractions.

The new partnership’s plans appeared on the council website on September 29 — on the same day it was announced AEE, which was set to pay the council £5,473,500 for the right to run the festive events over the next five years, had walked away from the contract.

The proposals include plans for the big wheel, food and craft stalls, public toilets and amusements including carousels and a “fun flyer” in East Princes Street Gardens, and performance and catering units and ‘other associated moveable structures’ in the larger western section of the Gardens. 

Another application is to site the popular ice rink, “star flyer” ride, bar and seating areas and more food stalls along George Street.

The public can comment on the plans until Friday, October 28.

Although AEE will no longer fulfil the contract, it was reported this week that the firm still stand to make “a substantial profit” as a subcontractor, having already secured several local traders to run market stalls.

And it was even claimed Mr Kohlert could end up making “more than he would have running the whole contract” under the new arrangement.

Mr Kohlert said: “We took this decision to protect Edinburgh’s Christmas and to allow a new supplier to come on board in enough time to deliver the celebrations for the city.

“By remaining involved in a smaller capacity, it will allow the much-loved Christmas markets to go ahead and for over 70 local businesses to trade over their most important time of year.

“We’re truly sorry for the disruption this has caused and will do everything in our power to make sure this year’s events are a success for the people and businesses of Edinburgh.”

Council leader Cammy Day said following discussions held earlier in the week there was “clear consensus amongst councillors on ensuring that we provide high-quality festive celebrations for the city this year”.

He added: “We agreed to formally consider the plans at a special meeting of the finance and resources committee on October 10.”

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