Edinburgh Leisure under fire over Portobello golf course plans

Public meeting to discuss the proposals for Portobello Golf Club'. Huge turnout meant they had to move out the meeting room and on to the pavilion steps.
Public meeting to discuss the proposals for Portobello Golf Club'. Huge turnout meant they had to move out the meeting room and on to the pavilion steps.
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Scores of angry supporters have turned out in force to protest plans to redevelop the historic nine-hole Portobello Golf Course.

The 163-year-old Edinburgh Leisure-owned facility is expected to be cut back to six holes with frisbee golf and foot golf introduced in a bid to attract more families and provide a pathway for juniors.

But stunned members of the club were given just six week’s notice of the changes and offered no consultation. A statement released by Edinburgh Leisure put forward nearby Craigentinny Golf Course as an alternative option.

An emergency meeting held at the clubhouse on Sunday morning saw almost 100 people attend – with some having to listen from outside.

Tommy Gargan said: “There was a real sense of anger at the lack of consultation despite statements to the contrary from Edinburgh Leisure. There are a number of golf clubs that make use of Portobello whose existence will be at risk if the course is changed.

“There was a general feeling that Craigentinny is not a viable option for many and the new layout will not provide a proper golf experience.”

Many members found out about the plans when they turned up to the course last Friday to find notices pinned to the clubhouse doors.

Morna Fergusson, secretary of the Portobello Ladies Golf Club: “Edinburgh Leisure claims it is working with current members to find a solution but none of the members heard about the proposal until August 17. The benefit of all the community obviously does not include older people who like the relatively flat and short course at Portobello.

“Next week, Portobello Ladies Golf Club celebrates 125 years of golf at Portobello, and the gents club dates from 1856. This should be a cause for civic pride and not an inconvenience shuffled off into oblivion to make way for some imagined improvement to the course. A rethink would be in order.”

Concerns centre around provision for older golfers, who make up the majority of those who play the course. Morna added: “The majority of the current users are over the age of 60. At Portobello it would seem our exercise and social interaction is to be reduced.

“There must be ways to accommodate some fun ideas without destroying the course. By all means encourage young people but not at the expense of other age groups.”

Cllr Maureen Childs said: “Encouraging more young people to enjoy Portobello Golf Course can be done without closing it to those who want to play nine holes of golf. After all there is a school and sports club right next to it now. I am asking them for a proper consultation with users and community and shelve these premature closure plans.”

Cllr Donald Wilson, convener of the culture and communities committee, reached out to bosses at the leisure company: “This has come as a shock to the local community. I’ve been given assurances that public consultation is to come before any changes take place.”

Campaigners have invited a representative from Edinburgh Leisure to a meeting held at Portobello Baptist church on Monday, August 27 to discuss alternative options.

Edinburgh Leisure declined to comment.