A GROUP of youngsters barred from voicing support for a controversial Stockbridge redevelopment have been given the chance to put their views thanks to local campaigners.
BATs – the junior division of Edinburgh Academicals – had been blocked from speaking at a crunch meeting tomorrow at City Chambers to decide whether a £8 million transformation of their training ground is approved.
Time constraints and hearings protocols had been given as reasons for the passionate juniors missing out.
However, pro-development group Supporting a Flourishing Stockbridge (SFS) has since sacrificed some of its own five-minute presentation slot to give a youth representative from BATs time to address councillors.
Both groups support the proposed overhaul to Accies’ home ground.
Club chiefs want to build a 5000-capacity stadium at Raeburn Place, with a function centre, rugby museum and up to nine retail units part of the plans.
SFS chairman Douglas Roberts said: “We were approached directly by Edinburgh City Council to ask if we’d be willing to give BATs space to speak. It’s come to light that they’ve been refused a slot, which I think is quite disappointing and actually pretty surprising.
“As far as we’re concerned, BATs is an amazing project. It’s got a tiny budget, but it does great work in our local community. It gives so many kids the opportunity to play.
“Guys have gone on to play for Scotland A on the back of it. It’s a great community initiative and we feel they should be allowed to speak.”
Opponents to the Accies development have cited the size of the planned stadium and the potential threat to Stockbridge traders posed by up to 1780 square metres of retail space as their main concerns.
Planning officials have recommended approval of the redevelopment on the condition that any retail shops be limited in size to a maximum 500sq m.
Mr Roberts said: “We were quite frankly fed up with the mud-slinging that was going on. It’s been very divisive for the community and we want to look at the positives.
“It’s going to create 90-odd jobs and first-class rugby facilities. The museum is a fantastic thing.”
Tourism group VisitScotland and key Scottish Rugby Union leaders have also backed the overhaul to Scotland’s oldest club.
BATs chairman John Wright said their pitch at the meeting would be “short and sweet”.
He said: “I think it’s right that someone gets to put across the view of a young guy who’s actually come through BATs and is making his way, having played for Scotland at under-20s level.”