In 2012 the Edinburgh Academicals Rugby Club announced their proposals to build a large development in the residential area of Stockbridge/Comely Bank. Included in the plans were: a stadium with seating capacity of 2500 and the same amount standing; a museum and AV theatre; a bar, function suite and sponsors boxes with catering facilities for up to 1200 visitors; and a parade of up to 9 large shops to be built along Comely Bank Road.
As of 9th October 2012, the planning application for the Raeburn Place Development was made live on the Edinburgh Council Planning Portal. You can view the application and supporting documents <a href=”https://citydev-portal.edinburgh.gov.uk/idoxpa-web/applicationDetails.do?previousCaseType=Application&previousKeyVal=MBML0XEW01U00&activeTab=summary&previousCaseNumber=12/03567/CON&keyVal=MBD0BREW09Z00″> here</a>.
Note that a separate application was submitted for demolishing sections of the current boundry wall. This application can be viewed <a href=”https://citydev-portal.edinburgh.gov.uk/idoxpa-web/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=MBML0XEW01U00″> here</a>.
Planning permission has been granted in relation to these applications but at time of writing work has not yet commenced.
Strong Local Opposition
The majority of local people were and remain opposed to the development and it has been necessary to challenge the plans. Save Stockbridge is a group representing local residents and businesses concerned about the plans. We started as a small informal group but quickly gathered support from many others who also had serious concerns.
Initially few people were fully aware of the extent of this build, the developer having carried out minimal consultation. Save Stockbridge set up stalls in Raeburn Place and the Sunday market and distributed leaflets to inform people of the true extent of the build and how to object.
We found that few people disagreed with our view and many joined us in objecting to the plans, with 3369 people, mainly local, signing a petition. We have closely monitored the planning process and challenged decisions where necessary, whilst keeping the community updated at community meetings. We have been able to do this with funding generously provided by supporters and local people.
Making our Case to Councillors
During 2013 We met with all councillors and we submitted objections for consideration by the planning sub committee, as did the Community Council and the Cockburn Association. We also made our case at a hearing and organised a peaceful protest outside the City Chambers attended by around 150 people. Despite all of this the sub-committee voted in favour and planning consent with a legal agreement was issued in July 2014.
Some Councillors have maintained that the community is evenly split on this issue. In fact out of 1790 letters of representation only 553 were in support. Broken down into EH3 and EH4 postcodes, the message is even clearer with 1063 against the development and only 288 in favour. Of all letters of representation received by the Council for the first application, 73% opposed and for the second a staggering 91% took a similar view. Thirty four local shops (excluding Charity ones and those belonging to chain stores) signed a separate petition voicing their opposition to this development.
We are not anti sport, in fact we are highly supportive of it and want the Accies to continue in perpetuity, but with a smaller development more appropriate to the numbers of spectators (around 250) currently seen at their home matches. We continue to have great concerns about the impact of this development on the local area and small businesses.
Save Stockbridge will, on behalf of our supporters, continue to challenge this proposal for as long as it takes. Even though planning permission has been granted, we believe it is flawed. We await the results of an investigation by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman concerning errors and omissions in the planners’ report. We have pursued the Council on some of their actions including their failure to make spectators use public transport as they promised. We are investigating the potential issues of liquor licensing. We are also asking questions about the recent collapse and demolition of the wall which did not belong to the Accies or the Council.
The Wall and the Trees
Save Stockbridge is delighted that the City Council has acted swiftly to protect the trees on Comely Bank Road. Following the collapse of the wall, allegedly in suspicious circumstances, Save Stockbridge commissioned a report from a tree consultant. It said that the collapse had exposed the roots and the removal of the weight of the wall could destabilise them. Prompt action was required to protect the roots and reduce the weight of the trees branches.
Save Stockbridge immediately liaised with the Council’s Tree Officer and Area Roads Manager to seek action based on the planning conditions. These require specialist work to protect the trees before any work can start on the shops/restaurants/offices/function suite etc. Implementation of the conditions were triggered by the collapse of the wall. The council has responded swiftly and work is due to start in early January to reduce the crowns by 25% – 30%. Further news is awaited on work to protect the roots.
The Council is responsible for maintaining the wall, though it is owned by the Grange Trust.