Council bosses described a lack of planning permission for the Edinburgh Christmas market as a ‘significant issue’ - five days after building work started, it's been revealed.

The controversial market at East Princes Street Gardens went ahead last year despite organisers Underbelly not obtaining planning permission for the event.

But emails obtained by the Edinburgh Evening News through freedom of information laws show senior planning officers at The City of Edinburgh Council feared public backlash, following the revelation.

READ MORE: Edinburgh council kept Christmas market safety fears secret from public

Officials said planning consent would be applied for retrospectively so the market could open on November 16 - with the decision unlikely to be determined until April or May.

On October 23, five days after building work began, planning team manager Nancy Jamieson wrote to colleagues describing the lack of planning permission as a “significant issue”.

She said: “Can anyone advise who is responsible for this as there is public concerns about the extent of the works in the media and the fact it does not have planning permission is a significant issue.

“When the council leases the land for this purpose is there not a requirement that they get the proper consents?”

David Givan, in the building standards department, responded saying: “We are checking our records, however cannot yet see that there is a new permission in place.”

The fact previous permission for the gardens had expired in early 2018 was noted in August by officers, with Underbelly said to be “aware of the requirement” by officers.

There is no evidence anyone at the council knew about the lack of planning permission until this point, two-and-a-half months before the market opened.

Emails reveal planning committee convener, councillor Neil Gardiner, told officers he did not want the issue to 'reflect badly' on the planning service.

On October 28, Mr Gardiner emailed Mr Givan saying: “I am concerned that the planning service is being drawn into something not of their making.”

A later message to the same officer read: “I do not want this to reflect badly on the planning service in the media if it is unmerited.

“Investor confidence is in planning his [sic] very important.

“The Comms [sic] need to be very careful not to create a negative perception of planning particularly if it is Underbelly who are at fault.”

Conservative group leader councillor Iain Whyte accused the council, which outsources the market to events organiser Underbelly, of ‘furthering their own agenda’.

READ MORE: Underbelly boss threatened to 'cancel Hogmanay' over Edinburgh council concerns

He said: “It is time this administration took a good hard look at themselves and decide whether they are going to serve the people who they were elected to serve rather than serve their own agendas.”

A council spokeswoman said: “As you would expect with any major issue or event of this kind, relevant officers are called upon to give their professional advice.

"This correspondence shows discussions between planning colleagues around Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019/20."