A wide-ranging review into the management of events across Edinburgh – including its world-leading festivals – is due to be evaluated by city councillors following concerns over impact on residents.

Organisers of the city’s iconic festivals are braced for potential changes to the way events are delivered after a report highlighted a need to balance the needs of visitors with residents who live in the city.

The 57-page ‘Public Spaces Protocol’ was due to be considered today by councillors, but the transport and environment commitee hearing has been postponed due to heavy snow.

But under a raft of proposals including in the report – following an online survey of 800 residents in the city – some of the most iconic streets in Edinburgh could see new rules which will affect how events are delivered.

High Street, Castle Street, George Street, Grassmarket, Mound Precinct and St Andrew Square are all listed within a section of the report detailing ‘preferred uses and events’.

Events taking place in George Street, for example, must include a cultural element and have a “clear link to one of the festivals taking place in the city”.

Lost parking revenue on the street means event organisers will also need to make a ‘contribution’ to council coffers and only ‘short duration one-off sporting or cultural celebration events may be considered’.

For the Grassmarket strict guidelines must ensure noise from speakers does not travel outside of designated audience areas and only ‘super silent’ generators may be used for power.

And events which feature a temporary ‘bar only’ will no longer be supported, meaning a potential ban on pop-up bars if they are not associated with an event.

The report says: “No exclusive use, or single type of event, will dominate any one space. Uses of public space must reflect the interests of a wide range of user groups, and reflect the city’s ever-changing context. The Council supports a range of types events in public spaces; each of these is required to be well planned, deliver agreed outcomes and mitigate impacts on a wide range of different users.

“The Council’s consideration of proposed temporary events / activities must assess the needs of those who regularly access or interact with a public space (including residents and businesses) as well as providing opportunities for diverse attractions for the city’s population. The temporary use of public spaces for the provision of a bar only, or primarily bar focused facility is not considered to balance the needs of a wide range different users of a public space, and will not be supported.”

Seven key elements of the report – produced in addition to the city’s Events Strategy of 2016 and 2015’s ‘Thundering Hooves 2.0 – Ten Year Strategy to Sustain the Success of Edinburgh’s Festivals’- state:

  • The use of space must balance the needs of different users 
  • The use of a space must support and reinforce the special ‘place’ quality of its surrounds 
  • Each space must have periods of ‘rest’ when it is free from temporary events or activities 
  • The use of spaces must reflect Edinburgh’s unique city offering:
    Temporary uses of public spaces should actively promote Edinburgh’s role and reputation as:

    – the capital city of Scotland,

    – a globally recognised Festival City,

    – an historic city, (with Unesco World Heritage Site status),

    – a cultural and sporting city,

    – a great place to live, do business, visit or study.

  • The use of public space should encourage all people to access the city, throughout the year 
  • The spread of activities to spaces across a wider area of the city will be encouraged.
  • Temporary activities or events in public spaces must be well managed, and adhere to standard terms and conditions.

Cllr Lesley Macinnes (SNP), Convenor of the Committee, said: “More than 800 people gave us their views to help shape this Public Spaces Protocol, which takes into account the different needs of residents, partner organisations and stakeholders. With a packed and varied year-round events calendar, Edinburgh has so much to offer residents and visitors. We want to ensure we get the balance right and use public space better across the city, so we can continue to provide a diverse and appealing range of accessible, well-managed events.”

We asked some of the leading festival organisers on their views on the proposals but they are awaiting the outcome of the committee meeting before responding.

However, tourism bodies, festival and event organisers have all cited concerns over the proposals as part of the consultation exercise.