Portobello football pitch sale plan under attack

Bob Jefferson, pictured with Green candidate Mary Campbell, has started a petition to save the five-a-side football pitches in Portobello. 
Picture Ian Rutherford
Bob Jefferson, pictured with Green candidate Mary Campbell, has started a petition to save the five-a-side football pitches in Portobello. Picture Ian Rutherford
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Five-a-side football fans have rallied against the council’s decision to sell an eight-pitch facility in Portobello.

Angry players have slammed the council over its approach to leisure in the area and are demanding a stop to the sale until all options have been exhausted.

Edinburgh council leases the land, next to Tumbles soft play, to Powerleague five-a-side soccer centre and is now selling to help fund the new Meadowbank Sports Centre. This has forced Powerleague to find new premises.

A public outcry has sparked a petition gaining 475 signatures in one day.

The popular facility sees hundreds of football matches played each week.

Bob Jefferson, 58, who launched the petition, said there were not enough pitches in the city to accommodate the overspill. He said: “If it was to go, nowhere else would have the capacity to accommodate that number of games. Like everyone else who plays here, I’m devastated to learn that the council has put the site up for sale.

“With Scotland’s obesity levels we should not be closing down important sport and leisure facilities like this.

“And it is not just footballers who are upset, with so much housing planned for the area, the community wants to hang on to leisure sites. It is not acceptable to take that away without a discussion with the community.”

Mary Campbell, Green candidate for Portobello and Craigmillar, said: “This announcement comes out of the blue and to discover that the community has been sidelined by the council is very disappointing. To find out that all this was decided in November at a council meeting without any local representation is a real slap in the face. The city council is meant to be empowering local communities, not taking away their facilities without notice.”

Clare Slifer, 45, who is part of a woman’s football team, said it would be “a huge loss”. “I’ve played on a lot of pitches across the city and the size and surfaces here are fantastic. It is a shame that a facility which encourages women to take up football and be involved in sport could disappear.”

The council’s plan for development in North West Portobello states that “no loss of the football pitches will be acceptable unless a new facility of at least equal standard is provided elsewhere in the near vicinity”.

The council declined to comment on proposed sites for a replacement facility.

A spokeswoman said: “Sale of the land will be subject to planning permission.”

A Powerleague spokesman said: “We are working with the city council to bring forward this site for development, as an ageing facility which is approaching the end of its natural life, it makes sense for us to look for a new location at this point.”

The sale of the 1.54 hectare site includes a condition requiring any proposal to provide approximately 50 car parking spaces solely for use by council-owned Tumbles soft play.

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