• Portobello Community Council
  • c/o 14 Rosefield Avenue
  • Portobello
  • EH15 1AU

Ferris Wheel on Portobello Promenade

Posted on: August 6th, 2020

A number of local residents have contacted Portobello Community Council regarding the erection and operation of a Ferris Wheel on Portobello Prom.

The City of Edinburgh Council is responsible for the licensing of such facilities. The community council is normally a consultee for license applications, but in this case received no prior notification due to the temporary nature of the license. We would normally share such information when we receive it.

As a community council it is our role to represent the views of the community – we can have no agreed position on the Ferris Wheel, given we have not consulted in it, nor held a public meeting during the lockdown.

Information, attached, from Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director, Healthcare Quality & Improvement Directorate would seem to cast doubt on if this facility could be lawfully operated during the current phase of the lockdown:

“I am writing to update you on the latest position with regard to the operation of funfairs and fairground attractions.

As part of the 30 July review, the reopening of funfairs has been given an indicative start date of 24 August, to be confirmed at the review taking place on 20 August.

As you are aware COVID-19 is still highly infectious and extremely dangerous and this means we need to consider ways in which we can avoid spreading the virus by reducing surface transmission. As a result of the work undertaken with regard to the operation of funfairs, we have a better understanding of the levels of transmission risk associated with the use of fairground rides, including those in non-funfair locations.  In view of this increased understanding we are now recommending that fairground rides in locations outwith funfairs should also remain closed.

We can only re-open services and restart the economy if infection rates continue to be low.   We don’t want any businesses to remain closed or open with restrictions in place, for a day longer than is necessary but public health is paramount.  Decisions on re-opening are being made as part of the public health response to the spread and incidence of coronavirus in Scotland due to continuing concerns about public health risks as we gradually re-open the economy.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 currently require a person responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service listed in Part 2 of schedule 1 to cease carrying on that business or providing that service. Funfairs ” are listed in part 2 number 19 of that schedule. Such premises are currently prohibited from operating/opening to the public.  Given the ongoing need to suppress the virus and to maintain a consistent approach, it is now advised that fairground rides in other locations should also remain closed. These other locations may be able to operate some other parts of their business, for example mini golf, zoo/animal attractions and gardens in line with re-opening of these sectors, and following appropriate guidance.   

This decision to recommend that other fairground rides should be closed alongside funfairs has not been taken lightly, but is considered necessary to discourage the risk of transmission of coronavirus via hard surfaces touched by multiple customers, along with other risks associated with large crowds for example shouting and screaming whilst enjoying the rides.  These risks are very real and apply whether the ride is located in a funfair or elsewhere.  

We will move to re-open Scotland’s funfairs and rides, and amend our guidance, as soon as it is safe to do so.  I hope that we can continue to work together as part of the Scottish Government’s gradual approach to re-opening the economy.”

UPDATE: Further information from City of Edinburgh Council officials, via local councillor Mary Campbell:

  • The current licence is from 09.00 – 21.00 from 3 August 2020 until 30 August 2020. The license has multiple conditions in regards to health and safety, stewarding, hygiene measures, etc
    None of the below is written by me, it all comes from council officers responding to councillor questions. I hope the information is helpful. This is the information I give to residents who have emailed me about this.
  • “The operator of a funfair ride applied for a temporary licence which, as a temporary licence under the Act, does not require public consultation. Normally the team would pick up the controversial nature but given all that is going on this slipped through and was granted.
  • The Act does not provide any appeal mechanism for grant or indeed refusal of a licence, the Act provides for a less onerous process in granting a licence and that includes no appeal.
  • It is also important to perhaps explain one of the consequences of the less onerous process is that there is no requirement for a site notice and no right to lodge an objection.
  • I appreciate the concern of residents, but the granting of a temporary licence does not create a precedent, each temporary licence is considered on its merits and the granting of this licence does not mean that future licences will be granted.
  • It is likely that future applications would be referred to committee if the directorate felt they were controversial, which given the concerns expressed would meet that criteria.
  • At present funfairs are not permitted to operate due to the emergency health protection regulations and the grant of a licence does not alter that legal restriction.
  • We are speaking with the operator who perhaps understandably trying to find a way of being allowed to operate.
  • Press coverage last week where similar operators have been raising concerns about whether the term ‘funfairs’ in the regulations applies to them or whether they are a tourist attraction.
  • The operators have been told quite clearly that the Ferris wheel may not operate as the health protection rules apply until at least 24 August and the granting of a licence does not alter that fact.
  • Meantime there is no restriction on the building of the funfair so there may be a period when it is there but not open to the public. The ride requires safety certificates annually and for that may be tested over the next few days.”
  • The next points are from officers in response to resident questions
  • “The licensing system does not cover residential amenity, that would be picked up by a planning permission which would be required if the structure was there longer than 28 days.
  • It is also important to note that a licence does not control either the construction of any funfair or its derigging. It is common that structures are built for temporary licences before the grant of a licence.
  • The terms of the licence are subject to an inspection from public safety colleagues which would normally take place after the wheel was constructed, if there was a concern about impact on buildings then the normal process would be to require the applicant to produce evidence from a qualified engineer to address that concern. In any event that inspection has not taken place as the operator has been told they cannot operate.”