Making sure everyone can enjoy West Princes Street Gardens

Quaich project

Culture and Communities Convener Cllr Donald Wilson says too many people are currently unable to make the most of one of Edinburgh’s finest greenspaces.

"Princes Street Gardens is one of our city's greatest green assets and quite rightly holds a special place in the hearts of Edinburgh residents and visitors. 

Our ambition is for this to be a place for people of all ages to enjoy, now and in the future. We are clear that the Gardens will remain a publicly owned and managed treasure for generations to come.

However, if you’re a wheelchair user or pushing a pram, access to West Princes Street Gardens is currently extremely difficult from most entrances, meaning untold numbers of residents and visitors are effectively excluded from spending time in this magnificent green space.

The Ross Theatre is no longer fit for purpose and there is too much concrete and not enough greenery. Community use of the facility, meanwhile, has dramatically reduced from its peak in the 50s and 60s.

Rather than continue with patchwork improvements to West Princes Street Gardens on our own, we welcome the Ross Development Trust’s (RDT) support and funding approach, which allows us to set our sights much higher. It’s important to stress that while the Trust leads on delivering the project and sourcing funding, executive control and governance remain with the Council.

Edinburgh has long benefited from the philanthropy of generous benefactors – the Ross Theatre and nearby Usher Hall being prime examples of this – and the Trust’s philanthropic giving fundraising strategy for the Quaich Project is looking to harness these benefits to continue this fine tradition.

The project has already seen the Ross Fountain returned to its 19th Century glory alongside the complete renovation of the Gardener’s Cottage and, should the Trust reach its fundraising target, West Princes Street Gardens would again be transformed into a space for everyone to enjoy in the heart of the city.

We share residents’ desire to reduce the disruption of the gardens due to major events and have already announced a cap on the number of event days in West Princes Street Gardens. It’s worth remembering, of course, that income raised through events already supports the maintenance of our green spaces and other important Council services.

In line with our Development Agreement with the Trust, councillors and officers have been closely involved with the Project throughout and the model of seeking donations has underpinned the Project since it began, with councillors agreeing this approach in June 2016.

Any significant corporate donation proposals would of course be subject to the Council’s policy on advertising and sponsorship and would have to be sanctioned by the Council through our committee process – just as the initial £5m contributed by Norman Springford was.

And to be absolutely clear: there are no proposals to sell off any part of the gardens or for sponsorship deals which impact negatively on Common Good Land, and there never will be. 

The Quaich Project is providing us with an outstanding opportunity to invest in and enhance one of the most stunning settings in Scotland. We look forward to continuing our support for this – and the huge benefits it could bring to the people of Edinburgh and beyond.”

Published: February 26th 2020