Hundreds sign up to halt new Accies venue in Stockbridge

Campaigners at the meeting in Stockbridge last night make their feelings known. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Campaigners at the meeting in Stockbridge last night make their feelings known. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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HUNDREDS of signatures have been received in opposition to controversial plans to transform Scotland’s oldest rugby club into a 5000-spectator venue.

Edinburgh Academicals’ plans to redevelop their home ground at Raeburn Place in a bid to secure the club’s future has attracted criticism from local residents.

Over a hundred people attended a meeting in Stockbridge to discuss the proposal, which features a new stadium, club facilities and between three and nine retail units.

Accie’s Stockbridge home – the site of the first Scotland v England match in 1871 – is currently under-used and previous plans for a clubhouse and new grounds fell through two years ago.

At present the club is forced to use Portakabins as changing rooms.

However, both the scale of the redevelopment and the level of retail units has alarmed residents and traders in equal measure leading to the setting up of the Save Stockbridge campaign.

Campaign founder John Donnelly told last night’s meeting: “We are not anti-development, we are just anti this development. We understand the Accies’ financial plight, but that is not our doing.

“An amateur rugby team does not need a 5000-capacity stadium and retail units that will dwarf every other store in Stockbridge.”

He also told the crowd how a recent bid to canvass local opinion on the proposals saw over 800 signatures gathered in one weekend.

Local resident and engineer James Mclean also spoke at the meeting and said: “This development is driven by the retail element not rugby.

“Accies only play 14 home games a year and at present attract just under 400 spectators.

“Their season opener last weekend saw just over 200 people in attendance.

“On the remaining 351 other days of the year this development will be all about retail.”

The club has claimed that the only way to provide the proper facilities and a long-term future is to generate income from retail development.

Speaking previously, 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.”

Plans for the development are expected to be submitted in the coming weeks after which locals will have three weeks to make known their objections.

If approved, the club hopes to complete the project by summer 2014, with bosses insisting the development will provide new facilities for local people and sports fans across north Edinburgh.

Artists’ impressions of the development also portray a modern sports centre with boutique-style outlets.

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com