Heritage campaigners have called for a rethink on mass tourism in Edinburgh after the Princes Street Gardens were turned into a mudbath by the Christmas market.

More than 2.6 million people visited the controversial market, which was 
at East Princes Street Gardens for seven weeks.

Workers are still dismantling the wooden chalets that were in place over the festive period, and Christmas wreaths and detritus could be seen lying in 
the mud.

Grass had been entirely worn away in places, and was severely discoloured in other areas.

The City of Edinburgh Council contracts events organiser Underbelly to put on the city’s Hogmanay event, which proved controversial over the festive season as a row escalated around residents’ access to their homes.

And the local authority reminded disgruntled residents the “reinstatement” of the Gardens was funded by Underbelly – which has “acknowledged some of the concerns raised”.

However, campaigners have urged the city council to consider how it balances mass tourism with the “climate emergency” declared by the local authority last May.

Terry Levinthal, director of the Cockburn Association, said he felt tourists were being given priority over residents.

Mr Levinthal said: “The implications these events have is that it removes green spaces for people who live in the city for much longer than the Christmas market takes place.

“All of these things have come to a point where we will be holding a public summit on it. It is increasingly recognised the impact that green spaces have on civic wellbeing and mental wellbeing.

“We have got to the point now where the commodification of the city is a major public concern.

“A climate emergency has been declared not only in the city but in the country, but there is a question over whether mass tourism is consistent with the imperative of dealing with the climate emergency.”

He described the Christmas markets as “super-sized” and said a family ticket for a ferris wheel – for two adults and two children – cost £28, out of the price range of many families.

Mr Levinthal added: “I think the feeling is that tourists are given priority over residents.

“All of these things have come together and people are beginning to get cross.”

“To date, managing tourism has really been about marketing - but bigger is not better.

“We need to work on a more sustainable model, that starts from the perspective of improving things for people who live and work in the city.”

The Cockburn Association will hold a public meeting on January 22 where people can raise their concerns.

Lothian MSP Sarah Boyack (Labour) also voiced her concerns.

She said: “Rather than tear up the city landscape for profit, we should be working to find more suitable sites to host such enormous events.

“The Christmas celebrations have continued to increase in size, year on year. If these events continue to grow, just how much damage will there be next year? This is completely unacceptable.

“Underbelly may be covering the cost of the reinstatement works, but the real question is whether this should be necessary at all.”

Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, directors of Underbelly and Edinburgh’s Christmas, said: “We are pleased to be able to report on the success of Edinburgh’s Christmas. Once again people voted with their feet and more visitors and significantly more locals than ever before came to enjoy the event in East Princes Street Gardens.

“This is a testament to the enduring, award-winning appeal of Edinburgh’s Christmas and its world-class offer.

“We acknowledge some of the concerns voiced around the event and we look forward to working closely with the City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh residents and other stakeholders to review the event and to look at where 
and how we can make improvements; and also to contributing to the public consultation on the future of Edinburgh’s winter festivals from 2022.”

A spokesman for City of Edinburgh Council said: “The deconstruction of Edinburgh’s Christmas is under way and all concerned are working hard to complete the work as fast as possible.”