Local resident and Save Stockbridge supporter James Simpson wrote yesterday to The Scotsman to counter some of the claims put forward in its coverage of the planning application in that day’s edition. Whilst he would like to stress that he writes in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the Save Stockbridge group, he has kindly agreed for us to reproduce his letter here in full. We feel that his words will strike a chord with many of us in the local community who share concerns about the sheer scale of what is being proposed for Raeburn Place and the manner in which the case for the development is being made.
“11th October 2012
Sir – you quote Mr Spratt, chairman of the Edinburgh Academicals Rugby Club as saying that “very small but vocal minority” of residents and traders in Stockbridge, Comely Bank and Inverleith were opposing the Accies’ development of their historic Raeburn Place ground. As someone who has lived in Raeburn Place for 37 years and who knows the area and the community well, I believe he is mistaken. This project is designed to cater for 5000 spectators (2500 seated). It is to be supported financially by the building of retail space equivalent to nearly five times the area of the local Scotmid store and ‘hospitality suites’ larger than those of the Balmoral Hotel. All this, to be built on the sports field in the equivalent of a three storey building fronting Comely Bank Road, is inappropriate for a host of reasons and is wholly misconceived. More than 2500 genuine signatures have been given by potential objectors, a third of them supported by email addresses, and many of the independent shopkeepers in Raeburn Place are displaying posters opposing the scheme. The planning application now lodged will be vigorously resisted.
The Accies have been a much loved and respected part of the Stockbridge community since the 19thC, when land was passed from the Inverleith Estate to the then Grange and Academicals Trust to be used exclusively for rugby, cricket and other sports “in perpetuity”. This bullying application for the gross over-development of their part of the site is a betrayal. Everyone wants club and school rugby, cricket and hockey to continue to be played at Raeburn Place and the suggestion that, if this application were to fail, the field could be developed for housing is silly scaremongering. The Accies’ generous benefactors could establish an endowment fund for the club and support the rebuilding of their pavilion, so carelessly destroyed a few years ago: commercial development on the playing field and obstruction of the public view to Inverleith Park from Comely Bank Road should be unacceptable. If the club is in such difficulty that it cannot continue without this development, then it should withdraw and allow others to continue the amateur sporting tradition at Raeburn Place.
There must be many suitable locations for the sort of commercial, quasi-professional rugby operation which the Accies wish to develop, but Raeburn Place is not one of them. The proposed development is on recreational open space within the Conservation Area and contravenes the Local Plan on numerous counts. This application should be rejected.
James Simpson OBE FRIAS”