Council’s economic leader rules out funding new Hearts ground

Cllr Tom Buchanan
Cllr Tom Buchanan
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EDINBURGH’S economic development leader today ruled out the city council building a community stadium with Hearts.

Tom Buchanan said the council was not in the business of funding facilities for one half of the city.

He said a proposal that the council and Hearts could jointly develop a community stadium would not be considered as a “serious option”.

The Evening News revealed a fortnight ago that a report commissioned jointly by the council and the club had proposed the partnership plan.

Today, Councillor Buchanan – himself a Hearts supporter – said: “There was a recommendation that the council consider a community stadium with Hearts. That’s not what we will be agreeing. It was a consultant’s idea. It will be not coming back before the council as a serious option.”

Opposition councillors complained they had known nothing about the report, which cost £30,000, and questioned who had authorised it.

Cllr Buchanan said the council’s £15,000 share of the bill was within the amount senior officials could sanction for reports, although he said he had been aware it was being commissioned.

The opposition parties have also complained the full study has still not been made available, but Cllr Buchanan insisted the director of city development would be publishing it.

Hearts are said to have expected the council to provide a site for a stadium and pay for its construction, with the club becoming a tenant.

Meanwhile, footballers’ union PFA Scotland is investigating whether Hearts’ failure to pay players means they can walk away from the club.

Cllr Buchanan said the council had a clear interest in any plans by Hearts to relocate from Tynecastle and the future of that site.

He said: “It’s clear Uefa regulations are going to get tougher and tighter and Tynecastle, which I think is a fantastic stadium with an excellent atmosphere, cannot grow to accommodate the rules.

“We are not here to fund a private company, but we do need to know what is do-able in and around Tynecastle.

“If they do move anywhere else, that’s a major site that comes on the market. Are there restrictions on housing there? What value does the site have in terms of housing? How are Hearts going to fund their new stadium?

“It’s only through doing some consultancy work like this that we are able to get an idea of whether what they want is do-able.”

He added: “We have not got the capital funding to be investing any money in a stadium for Hearts and why should we if we’re not investing similar money for the other major club in the city?”

Asked it the council would borrow to fund a new stadium, he said: “Absolutely not.”

Speculation about a possible site for a new stadium had focused on Sighthill, where council-owned land was once before earmarked for such a development.

Cllr Buchanan’s fellow SNP councillor and deputy council leader Steve Cardownie – who has become embroiled in claims of Hearts bias on the administration – has already poured cold water on that idea.

Cllr Buchanan agreed the site would not be suitable for Hearts. He said: “We will not be revisiting Sighthill. There is not the land there for the stadium Hearts would need.

“Even with the best public transport system in the world, people would still want to go by car – there is just not the land at Sighthill.”

Hearts declined to comment because of their “ongoing dispute with the Scottish media”.