A £1 MILLION “ransom strip” which threatens the controversial Accies development in Stockbridge has been sold – and the new owner says he wants a “sensible” negotiated settlement.
The Evening News revealed two years ago how the Grange Club, based next door to the Edinburgh Academicals sports ground, claimed it owned a 2ft wide strip of land in front of the development site in Comely Bank Road.
The land would be vital for access to the shops planned to front onto the road as part of the £16m development, so experts estimated the strip to be worth around £1m.
But last year the Grange Club lost a court ruling on the case. It has now decided against an appeal and instead agreed to sell the land to one of its former chairmen, property developer Douglas Lowe.
Mr Lowe said he was heading a consortium and hoped the dispute with developers the Raeburn Place Foundation could be resolved.
He said: “The whole thing is lamentable that an arrangement has not been reached between the parties. I’m only here as a last resort.”
But he said he did not believe further legal action was necessary. “I want to have a negotiated settlement. It would be sensible for them to settle and they are sensible, intelligent, professional people and they know I and my consortium will not give way.”
It is understood Mr Lowe paid around £12,000 for the strip and has agreed to give the Grange Club half of whatever price he might obtain for it.
Mr Lowe said he thought the £1m estimate for the land undervalued it.
Last year, Accies chairman Frank Spratt attacked the “greedy old men” of the Grange Club over the ransom strip claim.
Grange Club secretary Gordon Tolland confirmed the change of ownership.
He said: “At an extraordinary general meeting the Grange Club members voted by an overwhelming majority to sell the strip to a company controlled by Mr Douglas Lowe, who himself is a property developer. Accordingly, the Grange Trust abandoned its appeal in the Court of Session and it is a matter for Mr Lowe as to what happens now.”
The development includes a rugby pitch, 2500-seater stand, bars, shops and other facilities.
Bruce Thompson, of the Save Stockbridge campaign which has led opposition to the plans, welcomed Mr Lowe’s move. He said: “I think this is incredibly bad news for the Accies and excellent news for us. I think this could be a major problem for the development. I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
But the Raeburn Place Foundation insisted the change of ownership made no difference to its plans. A spokesman said: “The foundation is still looking to get the funding in place to start phase one.”