Plan for Hearts fans’ club next to nursery blasted

The site of the proposed club on Craigmillar Castle Avenue is next to a nursery. Picture: Jon Savage

The site of the proposed club on Craigmillar Castle Avenue is next to a nursery. Picture: Jon Savage

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A DECISION to build a new home for the Capital’s oldest Hearts supporters’ club next to a nursery has come under fire from community leaders.

The city council will seek a contractor to refurbish a property for the Craigmillar club, which has been left homeless ever since a fire gutted its old premises eight years ago.

But several critics have questioned the suitability of the chosen site on Craigmillar Castle Avenue, which is situated right next to Greendykes Child and Family Centre.

The city’s finance and budget committee approved giving a lease for the building to the supporters’ club on Thursday.

Speaking in the city chambers, Craigmillar/Portobello ward councillor David Walker questioned whether it was appropriate to have football fans drinking alcohol in the vicinity of a centre catering to toddlers and young children.

He said: “It’s through a wall from a children’s nursery and they’re one of the most vulnerable groups in Craigmillar. We might do this and the club might not get a licence to sell alcohol.”

A petition started by residents on neighbouring Niddrie Farm Grove has been lodged to the council objecting to the new site.

The Hunters Hall Housing Co-operative had also opposed an alternative site next door to a care home for the elderly on Greendykes Road that had been proposed for the club.

Co-op chairman James Cameron said: “There are already problems with antisocial behaviour and another licensed premises will make it worse.”

Plans to build a clubhouse on that half-acre site have since been abandoned, but the new base identified by the council is less than 500m away.

The club’s heritage extends back to 1947. The organisation has been able to retain a membership of more than 150 people despite having to travel as far as the Danderhall miners’ club to meet ever since its base on Harewood Road was destroyed by fire in 2005.

Club secretary Ronnie Arthur, right, had previously said: “We’ve been without a home for so long now. We just want to get established.”

Most of the £655,000 needed to turn the existing building into a clubhouse will be covered by an insurance payout.

Fellow Craigmillar/Portobello ward councillor and licensing board member Mike Bridgman pointed out the opening hours of the social club were unlikely to clash with those of the nursery.

He said: “If it’s well licensed and well looked after then you don’t get problems. This club is well run.”

Honor Flynn, chair of Castlebrae Community High School’s parent council, also defended the supporters’ club, saying they were “very well respected in the area”. She said she had regularly attended the club’s old base in the past, adding: “They wouldn’t do anything out of order, especially not during the day when the nursery is on. If anything, they would probably get the nursery involved with fundraising. This has been long overdue.”