Edinburgh Accies plans in jeopardy over £1m '˜ransom' strip

MAJOR plans for the £16 million Edinburgh Accies development could be put on hold as a row erupts over a strip of land just two feet wide.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 10th February 2016, 9:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th February 2016, 10:44 am
This strip of land has been valued at more than a million pounds.
This strip of land has been valued at more than a million pounds.

Planning has already been granted for a rugby pitch and 2500-seat stand at Raeburn Place, Stockbridge, alongside bars, shops and other facilities.

But the scale of the proposals has provoked outcry in the neighbouring community – and now the entire scheme could be held to ransom for as much as £1 million, after a dispute arose over a thin slice of land between the south end of the Accies’ ground and Comely Bank Road.

The disputed strip covers the land that used to lie directly under a now-demolished wall and would form a key access point to the Accies development, but records have revealed it is actually owned by the nearby Grange Cricket and Sports Club.

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The Accies took over the adjacent grounds from the Grange and Academical Trust in 1979, but a 6ft wide strip, including the now-demolished south perimeter wall, was never handed over and continues to be owned by the Grange.

While some of it is public road, legal debate is centred on whether this includes the 2ft wide slice that once ran under the wall. If this is not covered by the same access rights as the road, it could scupper the developer’s own means of entry to a vital part of their site.

Tonight members of the Grange will vote on whether to start legal action to assert their rights over the land – which would effectively hold the Accies’ development to ransom.

Advice given to the Grange by chartered surveyors DM Hall estimates the “ransom” value of the strip – the amount the Accies could be expected to pay if they wish to acquire the land – at £875,000. But another estimate put the figure as high as £1,330,000.

Other options being considered include selling the land to the Accies as it stands – making it clear the strip will be floated on the open market if no satisfactory offer is made – or simply handing it over.

The Grange insists it would not be their intention to “kill off” the development, but rather maximise the financial gain for the club by asserting their rights over the land.

However, a letter from solicitors acting on behalf of the Raeburn Place Foundation Ltd, which is leading the Edinburgh Accies development, insists Grange’s ownership of the strip is “irrelevant”.

They say the land where the wall once stood is actually part of the road – allowing developers and the public a right of access over it. They argue the council could “compulsorily purchase” the land if necessary.

If a deal between the two parties cannot be reached, the disagreement could be taken all the way to the courts.

Meanwhile, the legal wrangle has also caught the attention of other groups.

Campaigners Save Stockbridge – who have previously opposed aspects of the Accies development – have registered an interest in buying the strip for the community.

And Douglas Lowe, chairman of property firm the Caledonian Trust and former chairman of the Grange Trust and Club, is also vying to secure it in order to sell to the Accies himself and pump half of the profits back to the Grange.

A Raeburn Place Foundation spokesman said there was “no impediment to the redevelopment going ahead as planned”, while a council spokeswoman said the dispute was a “complex issue” and officials were “preparing a response”.

The Grange declined to comment.