St Andrews Square Garden – reducing the use?

(with thanks to the Spurtle for some of the words and detail – see their full report [PDF, top of page 2])

NTBCC has been concerned that St Andrews Square garden has been overused and damaged though heavy use, particularly during festivals. It appears that some of the owners agree. In February, Standard Life (speaking through Essential Edinburgh) said:

Everyone agrees that St Andrew Square Garden is a superb, green space in the heart of the city to be enjoyed by local people, visitors and those who work in the city centre all year round.

In August, Standard Life told the Evening News that they intend to

put together a planned programme for the entire year … which does not impact on the intended use of the gardens

NTBCC has thanked Standard Life via this open letter:

Keith Skeoch, Chief Executive, Standard Life
August 30, 2017


Dear Sir

St Andrew’s Square, Edinburgh

In this open letter I am writing to convey the appreciation of the New Town and Broughton Community Council that the owners of St Andrew Square are reviewing how the Square is used to support Edinburgh’s various festivals, and that in the meantime only uses which have light infrastructure for short periods of time are being permitted. We would be grateful if you could copy this letter to your fellow owners.

We have been concerned for a couple of years that the Square was being overused during both the summer and Hogmanay festivals. The consequence was that grass was repeatedly being turned into bare muddy patches that lingered for two or three months after each festival, and with the underlying soil repeatedly compacted which is resulting in long term damage to the trees.  Quite apart from that, the imposition of the temporary structures, especially the bars and stalls, cluttered up and jarred with the beautiful proportions of the Square. 

This summer it has been a pleasure to observe residents and visitors alike tarrying in the Square, or having a picnic on the grass, or just enjoying the open space. In fact I think the atmosphere has been more festive than before.

This pleasure has not been spoilt by the presence of the low key, but very worthwhile “Social Bite” project. And the exuberant Bloom light festival was a triumph, which shows that it is possible to use the space for Festival purposes without imposing of unsuitable structures on it for weeks at a time. Moreover, despite the concerns expressed by some Fringe promoters at the absence of a St Andrew’s Square venue, overall Fringe ticket sales show an increase of 9 % on last year. 

We hope that the owners will continue to stand up for the Square and only support uses which do not unduly disturb its harmony and tranquility.  In particular, if the square is to be used for the winter ice rink, which the Community Council accepts is enjoyed by many and brings welcome life and animation to the Square, we hope that steps will be taken to cut down on or eliminate entirely the clutter of the surrounding stalls, which cause most of the clutter and damage.

If you would wish to discuss this further I would be very happy to meet with you or and the other owners.

Yours sincerely 

Ian Mowat