Fresh row erupts over Edinburgh Accies site plan changes

A sign offers retail space at the site. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
A sign offers retail space at the site. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Campaigners are calling for the developers behind a controversial overhaul of a Stockbridge playing field to apply for fresh planning permission after accusations of altering proposals at the 11th hour without any scrutiny.

Planning permission was granted in July 2014 for a new 5,000-capacity stadium, changing rooms, shops, cafe bar, function suites and a museum at the Raeburn Place sports ground in Stockbridge.

Artists' impressions of how the development will look at Comely Bank.

Artists' impressions of how the development will look at Comely Bank.

But last month the Raeburn Place Foundation submitted alterations to the Edinburgh Accies development, which they class as “non-material” to the overall proposals.

Residents are unable to comment on the amendments unless council officers, under delegated authority, judge the tweaks as “material” to the overall development. The row comes hot on the heels of council officers publicly apologising for allowing Edinburgh Rugby’s “mini-Murrayfield” proposals to proceed without the scrutiny of councillors.

Work started on the Raeburn Place site last month, but the Save Stockbridge group is now calling for the long-delayed development to be halted until new planning permission is obtained for the updated scheme.

It claims the building footprint has increased by 126 square metres and that retail units have been “amalgamated” and two sets of external doors have disappeared.

Edinburgh Academicals' playing fields on Raeburn Place. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Edinburgh Academicals' playing fields on Raeburn Place. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

And it argues that a gable wall to the east of the main entrance will now cause a “major issue” for the listed Raeburn House Hotel. Opponents have also pointed out that the proposed running track has been moved to the north of the site and the stadium’s stand and seating layout has been amended.

Resident Shona Conacher has written to planning officers to voice her dismay, labelling it “a deliberate tactic to go behind the people of Stockbridge who oppose this development”.

She added: “By starting the civil engineering elements of the project in advance of the decision on whether the extensive changes are material, it looks like the Accies are planning to force the hand of the council into accepting a fait accompli.

“The council should not accept the work to date as in any way material to its decision.

“I strongly believe that scale and scope of the changes is such that they should not be afforded the status of ‘non-material’.

“These are material changes that affect the initial planning decision and hence if the Accies wish to proceed on this basis, fresh planning permission should be sought for the entire project.”

Bruce Thompson, chair of Save Stockbridge, said the planning amendment had been submitted just before Christmas, leaving very little time for people to voice concerns.

Mr Thompson said: “They got their original planning permission on the basis it was a sporting development. Now they are not doing a sporting development at this stage. It’s all a money-making exercise.

“What they are trying to do is build the bit that’s going to make money for them – the shops, the conference centre, bars and restaurants. These are the parts that will give them an income.”

Developers insist they have followed all planning procedures and that removing external doors was essentially a technicality, as M&S, who signed up for three units in 2016, will only require one door for the shop. It does not prevent the units being split up in the future.

A spokesman for the Raeburn Place Foundation, said: “The Raeburn Place development has followed this process faithfully all the way through to this point. There have been no ‘underhand tactics’ – the process has simply been followed as the planning laws intend it should be.

“As is normal in the fine tuning of a development scheme, there will be minor aspects of the design that will change after planning has been approved. RPDL has submitted a number of non-material variation requests to the City of Edinburgh Council and is awaiting the council officers’ confirmation that they have been deemed to be non-material.

“It is the City of Edinburgh Council officers’ role to consider the changes requested and only if they deem them to be material changes, is there any scope for further public consultation. Indeed the City of Edinburgh Council planning website confirms that it is not possible to comment on the requested variations at this 
time.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com