A CONTROVERSIAL redevelopment intended to transform Scotland’s oldest rugby club will “suck the heart out of the community”, residents have claimed.
The fears were raised at a meeting last night at which proposals for the new Edinburgh Academicals stadium development were unveiled.
Hundreds of people packed into the meeting in Stockbridge to discuss the proposal, which would see a 5000-spectator venue created as well as up to nine new retail units. The audience was divided, with many raising concerns that the retail units would attract major firms and force small businesses in the area out of business, while others backed the club’s plans.
Accies executive chairman Frank Spratt said: “It is costing us £1000 to subsidise a game and that cannot go on forever. If we can’t have something put in place then the club will fold.
“Our facilities are so poor, people don’t come to the games anymore. This is all about growing the game.”
But one member of the audience said: “One of the attractions of having a business in Stockbridge is the other small businesses that surround you – they bring in more customers.
“It will be massive businesses that come in [to the new retail units], and it will destroy our local fishmonger, baker, our butcher.”
Another member of the audience said it would “suck the heart” out of Stockbridge.
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Raeburn Place is currently underused and previous plans for a clubhouse and new grounds fell through two years ago. The new stadium would provide covered seating for 2500 fans and could cater for another 2500 standing.
Speaking against the proposals, James Simpson OBE, a local architect, called on the developers to reduce the scale of the plans.
He said: “Separate out the development for revenue generation from the development for facilities for the club – build your revenue generating elsewhere.”
But the club claimed that the only way to provide the proper facilities and a long-term future would be to generate income from retail development.
Senior figures said they had already received interest from established local traders, but admitted that they could not guarantee supermarket chains would not look to open “metro” stores in new retail units.
Residents concerned about the impact of the development were warned that if the stadium bid falls through the site will attract interest from larger retailers.