Campaigners’ fury over Meadowbank’s early hand-over to council housing department

Work has begun to dismantle Meadowbank Stadium.
Work has begun to dismantle Meadowbank Stadium.
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Campaigners have claimed Meadowbank Stadium was handed over to the city council’s housing department eight months before a consultation was held on the future use of the site.

Paperwork has revealed that the authority agreed to transfer part of the Meadowbank site to its housing revenue account in March 2016 – before the public were asked for their views about what should become of the site.

Campaigners claim the initial public consultation into what should be done with the Meadowbank Stadium site took place in November and December of 2016 – but the council say this was only to gather views on the new stadium design, rather than the overall site.

Save Meadowbank campaigner Heather Peacock said: “The consultation should have come first with everything following from that. Instead we find the land was first transferred to the housing department before the public was even asked to comment.

“That is utterly unacceptable and shows how officials have been driving an agenda which our elected councillors seem unable to control.”

When launching the Meadowbank public consultation in 2016, the council’s then culture and sport leader, Richard Lewis said “more homes would be built to meet the city’s housing needs” as part of the proposals.

When planning permission was approved for the site in June 2018, council officers apologised for a “flawed public consultation” and a promise was made to begin the masterplan for the overall site, excluding the sports centre, with a “blank slate”.

A council spokeswoman said: “To deliver a new sports centre for the city, we made it clear from the outset that in order to help fund this we would need to sell the surplus land at Meadowbank.

“In a report to the Finance and Resources Committee in March 2016, we said that this site would be suitable for much needed affordable housing. We decided that rather than put part of the site on the open market, we would transfer the surplus land to the council’s Housing Revenue Account, which gives us much more control over what would be built there.

“As we have done elsewhere in the city we are now working closely with the local community on a new plan for the development of the area. We are committed to listening carefully to local people in the context of citywide housing need.”

Last week, a row erupted when campaigners called for the stadium contract to be put on hold while more clarity was found over the business case for the redevelopment. The council’s Finance and Resources Committee agreed to award the £39 million contract to Graham Construction Ltd. The committee removed references to numbers of housing from council documents before an ongoing consultation is concluded, following a proposal from Green councillors.

Campaigners said they had an alternative budget for their vision for Meadowbank, but when asked twice by housing and economy convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, how it would be paid for, campaigner Lloyd Quinan said he was “not prepared to say where 
specifically the funding would come from”.

Conservative councillors called for the business case for Meadowbank to be more robust, but council officers warned that £5 million of agreed funding from Sportscotland could have been put at risk if the contract was delayed for any reason.

The council’s consultation on “how to shape the new development” which could include housing, student accommodation, a hotel and commercial use, is open online until October 31.