Developers wanting to demolish Edinburgh football pitches should provide replacement facilities, says councillor

Developers behind plans to demolish five-a-side football pitches behind the Corn Exchange should replace them with equivalent facilities in the area, a councillor has said.

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 4:55 am

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The controversial proposals to close the World of Football and World of Bowling to make way for buy-to-rent homes and student accommodation has sparked strong local opposition and more than 7,000 people have signed a petition against the move.

Now Green councillor Gavin Corbett has backed the objectors and says the very least the developers Watkin Jones should do is compensate the community by building or paying for replacement pitches if their development goes ahead.

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The World of Football would close to make way for housing and student accommodation Image: Google Street View

He said the area stood to lose nine popular, high-quality, well-used indoor pitches for five-a-side football and that if they were outdoor pitches there would be a legal requirement to consult Sport Scotland but because they are indoor there is no such requirement.

“If the same rules applied to indoor playing fields then one of the criteria can be the provision of replacement facilities of comparable scope, usually by a payment by the developer to the council for the costs.

“Outdoor playing fields are quite rightly given extra protection in the planning system but that protection does not apply to indoor facilities like the pitches at the Corn Exchange.

"That seems absurd in Scotland where it is cold and dark for half the year. So I think the logic should be the same even if the law hasn’t caught up.

An impression of how the new development would look

“As local councillor I want the Word of Football and World of Bowling to stay where they are – easily reachable by foot, bike and bus for tens of thousands of people. But the very least that any developer should be doing in any plans is setting out how whatever is lost is replaced by equivalent facilities to serve the South West of the city.”

Marco’s Leisure, which owns the World of Football, has recently sold the Corn Exchange building to the Academy Music Group, who have renamed it the O2 Academy Edinburgh.

And Paul Demarco, chief executive of Marco's Leisure, said he understood people’s reaction to the thought of losing the World of Football.

“We are aware of the popularity of the World of Football and World of Bowling in Chesser, that goes without saying. Marco’s have for generations provided purpose built affordable family leisure and sport elements and will continue to do so.

"We’ve made use of the former auction mart buildings and livestock sheds for over 22 years. Sadly these are old buildings that were designed as cattle sheds and are over 120 years old.

"They are in need of constant maintenance, repair and upgrade which has become a completely uneconomical proposition for our commercial operation, especially as we always try to make our facilities affordable for all.

"To bring the buildings up to standard would be an unsustainable burden and cost for any organisation.

"Investment in recent state-of-the-art facilities such as World of Football at Marine Drive show what we can offer with far more viable spaces without the ongoing cost that old out of date buildings unfortunately provide and we are currently discussing possibilities on future sites with agents and the city council.”

Watkin Jones declined to comment.

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