Update Meeting – Full Report

Many thanks to everyone who came to our recent update meeting. For those who were unable to attend, here is our report on what was discussed on the night by Nick Evans, Save Stockbridge Vice Chair.

6 ½ Years On and Still No Answers About “What’s Going On At The Accies’ Rugby Ground?”

Local residents packed the Save Stockbridge public meeting on Tuesday 2nd October in the LifeCare Centre.  They were reminded of the main points in the sorry history of the Rugby Ground over the last six and a half years and the commitments given to the Council and Community during that time.

Key among them was that it the new buildings and stand would be completed in 2014, the capital funding of 8 million pounds was virtually guaranteed and that it was essential for the survival of the rugby and cricket clubs that a scheme was started without delay. Over and above all that, the Accies presented their project as being firstly about sporting facilities  with supporting or associated commercial elements, and it was all to be built as a single project without phasing.

The 4 license applications for a total 6,343 drinkers was a further cause of community upset.  Despite being advertised over the Easter holidays, a record number of objections were received leading to a shambolic meeting of the Licensing Board in April 2015. After a 3 month delay for a site visit by the Board, attended by only 2 councillors, the board met again in the summer holidays and granted all 4 licenses.

The oft repeated justification in the Council Planning Report for allowing the negative effects of the project, that an “area of Public Realm” would be created, turned out to be spurious. Two large sections of the area had been licensed for outside drinking, one  on condition it was fenced off. It turned out that they were private land! No planning conditions were attached to ensure public access.

The meeting then turned to 3 current issues:

  1. Implementation of Planning and Legal Conditions. Some of the planning conditions and items specified in the legal agreement tied to the planning permission were not now being delivered as expected.  For example, bus stop improvements and “real time” information displays had been abandoned and the money sent back to the Accies. The requirement for a detailed scheme of Arboricultural (tree) supervision to be formally approved in writing by the Head of Planning and Building Standards before work starts has not been carried through.
  1. The “Ransom Strip”.  The wrangle over ownership and control of the land along the Comely Bank Road frontage, the so called “ransom strip” was continuing, with the new owner having recently painted a red line right along the pavement to demarcate his property and put up a fence to protect it.  The fence had since been taken down, the Council having challenged it because of potential damage to the tree roots.  It is believed that the new owner also owns the stones from the original wall which “collapsed” in 2014.  A consequence of the ransom strip was that the new low walls along Comely Bank Road had been realigned to bring them onto the land owned by the Academical Club.
  1. The Accies new and very confidential proposal to construct a “Phase 1” building were also explained. In answer to a question it emerged that new architectural plans actually existed. The City Council’s planners were examining them to decide whether a new planning application was needed.  There was speculation that negotiations may be underway with a view to avoiding a new application.
  1. A key issue was which of the sporting facilities originally promised for the part of the building on Portgower Place (6 team changing rooms, 2 referee changing rooms, all-ability changing room, Fitness suite (i.e. gym), Physiotherapy/1st aid room, Ground keepers store, Players dining area, Audio visual cinema, Ticket office, 9 function rooms &VIP area, Museum and shop) would ditched and which squeezed into Phase 1. Plus whether the planning permission for relaying/realigning the pitch would be implemented, the floodlights renewed, all of the stand built and the sprint track laid.

A project which was presented to the public and authorities as “the development of a new sports pavilion, clubhouse and associated facilities with supporting commercial, business and retail uses” now seemed to be turned on its head.

Residents endorsed the general feeling that the views of the community had been repeatedly dismissed by the authorities in favour of the Accies, despite the accuracy of the facts, the strength of the arguments and the repeated failure to deliver as stated.

It was also good to hear of the Community Council ‘s consistent support for community concerns which was ably presented by Pam Barnes, Planning Officer, Stockbridge & Inverleith Community Council.

Residents very much appreciated that two of our Ward Councillors, Cllr Gavin Barrie and Cllr Hal Osler had come along to the meeting.   Cllr Osler explained that as she is a member of the City of Edinburgh Council Planning Committee, she would only be allowed to comment on the Accies’ new proposals if and when they were presented to the Planning Committee.  Cllr Barrie pledged to look into community concerns about the Accies’ proposals Residents welcomed both Councillors’ commitment to finding out what was happening.

And finally, the Save Stockbridge Committee would like to thank everyone for coming along. They are also very grateful for the very generous donations made at the end of the meeting.

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