Chairman’s Update – July 2018

At the AGM of the Edinburgh Academical Club, owners of the land and would–be landlords to the Raeburn Place Foundation, held on Monday June 18th, the club voted, despite having to borrow millions of pounds, to proceed with their build in Raeburn Place. The vote was 94 to 4 in favour of proceeding. The atmosphere was charged and apparently dominated by what looked like rugby players’ It is significant that, including their proxy voters, only 136 of their members bothered to respond. There was however a condition attached—that no work commences until all necessary funding was in place. A difficult task in view of all the obstacles that the developers now face.

Save Stockbridge have challenged on the planning front, they are reviewing the situation re charitable status and the many changes in the developers plans. They have approached The Rector of the school over his involvement in all this, pointing out how this whole matter could be jeopardising the reputation of a very fine school. Responses are awaited. but we are confident that there are serious questions that will have to be answered by the developer, and any of these, if not satisfying the appropriate administrative body could bring the whole project to an abrupt halt. The ransom strip is a very real problem for the developer; it is something he has decided to ignore all along, but a £1m+ bill could soon land on his doorstep. Under new ownership the wall and solum will play an extremely important part in this development.

The splitting of the project into two phases differs completely from the original concept at which time we were assured that the whole build would be completed in one stage, but they also told us then that they had sufficient funds for the entire development (phases one and two). Now we are getting a retail development, a loan of several million pounds and no new sporting facilities upon which the whole project was sold to the planners and to OSCR (Charity Regulator). Save Stockbridge has to ask if those few people who have given money to the project realise that it has gone to a retail development and not a sporting one?

The Edinburgh Academical Club cannot conclude the leasing arrangements until the Foundation is in funds. Despite the show of hands at their AGM, it will not be easy to raise £8.5m (including purchase of the ransom strip) but less anything donated over the last few weeks without the assistance of banks or commercial lenders. There must be uncertainty over securing a loan on retail premises and the ransom strip could be a major deterrent to any would-be lender. Huge annual repayments of capital and interest can only affect the charitable status and substantially reduce the amount of money available for charitable causes each year.

We have just been advised that a revised application has been submitted to the council and it is currently being decided whether the changes in that application would amount to a material change, thereby requiring full planning permission to be sought again. Since there is nothing yet on the planning portal, Save Stockbridge are currently trying to get more information on this and we will report back in due course’

There were a considerable number of conditions applied to the original planning consent and Save Stockbridge are awaiting answers from the Council on specific issues. They are eager to see the written agreement over treatment of the trees along Comely Bank Road, the landscape management plan and the program of archaeological work based on a survey. As we understand it, private agreements have been made on these issues in an attempt to negate a need for formal reports and potentially expensive actions. We ask whether the planning committee are aware of this and do they approve?

The developers have a lot of work to do. The whole project has always been controversial with no one on the development team seeming to realise the challenges they are about to face. The latest one, borrowing such a vast amount of money was not part of any original concept. For years they tried to “hoodwink” the public. Especially the locals, of whom over 3000 signed a petition against. Only recently the Foundation stated that they intended starting work on phase one by the end of June 2018 so Save Stockbridge are waiting to see what happens this time (the sixth commencement date in as many years). They are already well overdue.


Bruce Thompson
Chair, Save Stockbridge.

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