CAMPAIGNERS who insist the new Meadowbank sports centre will mean a reduction in facilities say official figures have vindicated their claims.
The Save Meadowbank group said details obtained from the city council under freedom of information show that what the council plans to build in place of the old 1970 stadium and sports centre involves a significant loss of pitches, badminton and squash courts, sports hall and spectator seating as well as the removal of the velodrome and rifle range.
Bulldozers moved in last month to start tearing down the old stadium and Livingston-based Graham Construction is expected to start construction of the new £45 million centre in the summer.
The council says the venue will become one of the country’s top community sports centres when it opens in 2020.
Save Meadowbank spokeswoman Heather Peacock said the figures showed an increase in floor space for a fitness suite, gymnastics and studio space but everything else was reduced, including main halls, squash courts, the outdoor 3G pitch, indoor spectator capacity (by 50 per cent), outdoor spectator capacity (by 90 per cent) with café, hospitality and car parking also significantly shrunk. There was also the complete removal of facilities for shooting and cycling.
She said: “The council told public meetings and the planning committee that there was no loss of facilities, that they were a better set of facilities. But now we can clearly see, from their own figures, that there is a loss of facilities.
“Edinburgh residents are being completely short changed by these plans.
“Meadowbank was regularly so packed sport groups had difficulty gaining extended lets and individuals had difficulty making private bookings. The replacement is going to be a pale shadow of its former self.
“This proves what the campaign has been saying all along and what Edinburgh Council has been reluctant to admit.
“Although it’s nice to have yet another fitness gym there are already lots of them in Edinburgh and what’s being lost here are the flexible multi-use facilities that can host a range of events.”
She said the figures did not cover the loss of landscaped areas and between 60 and 160 mature trees which will result from the development.
The campaign group also sought information from the council about the decision to allocate Edinburgh Leisure office space within the new centre and who suggested it.
The council reply said Edinburgh Leisure had made the suggestion as part of their business case and it was subsequently reported to the finance committee: “Edinburgh Leisure will relocate its head office to Meadowbank and generate further savings from terminating its existing lease.”
Ms Peacock said the response showed the move had never been scrutinised or voted upon by any councillor.
“The council says it is ‘dead space’ but it would be enough room for table tennis or other sports which are not getting anything.”
A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Leisure said: “The new Meadowbank will be a venue serving its community and a place for participating rather than spectating. It was never designed to replicate the original building, which was built to host the Commonwealth Games in 1970 and again in 1986.
“The activity areas in the new Meadowbank were informed by trends in participation in physical activity and sport, changes in the event market place and other facility developments in the city and beyond.
“Incorporating office space into the new Meadowbank was taken forward on the premise that there would be no compromise to the activity areas. Given the high ceiling height required for indoor athletics, a mezzanine is being built between the changing rooms on the ground floor and level one. This area would have limited use for sports given its dimensions, so this is where the Edinburgh Leisure office will be contained.”
The council said it had engaged clubs, users and governing bodies at each stage on the new facility mix for Meadowbank. A spokeswoman said: “The new venue has been designed based on this feedback and the demand which exists in Edinburgh. It will offer enhanced access to quality facilities which will be used more often, by greater numbers of people, and importantly by users of all different ages and abilities. What we are building is an inclusive, accessible sports venue with a fantastic range of state-of-the-art facilities and this will increase participation in sport in Edinburgh.”