Legal battle over Stockbridge development

An artist's impression of the plans for the Accies development. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of the plans for the Accies development. Picture: contributed
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A historic sports club is poised to sue the council on the back of a growing legal row over a 2ft-wide strip of land.

The Grange Club, based in Stockbridge, has launched legal action to try to force city officials to rebuild a demolished wall along Comely Bank Road.

The move comes amid an ongoing dispute between Grange and nearby Edinburgh Accies, who want to build a new rugby pitch and 2500-seat stand at Raeburn Place – alongside bars, shops and other facilities.

The scale of the £16 million plans has provoked outcry in the surrounding community, and earlier this year it emerged the entire scheme could be held to ransom for as much as £1m.

Historic records revealed a thin slice of land between the south end of the Accies ground and Comely Bank Road – which used to lie directly under the demolished wall and forms a key access point to the Accies development – is actually owned by Grange.

The cricket and sports club want Accies to buy the land if they wish to proceed with development.

In a complicated strategy, they are taking the council to court and suing it over its failure to maintain the wall, which was under the local authority’s care.

Gordon Tolland, secretary of Grange, said: “The issue of the wall and the strip of land along Comely Bank Road has been going on for quite some time now, and so the Grange Club has decided to clarify the legal position by having an action raised in the Court of Session.

“This will happen imminently and we have made Edinburgh council aware of the situation.”

If it wins in court, the council would be forced to rebuild the wall – a move which Grange bosses hope will then compel Accies to purchase the thin strip if they want their development to go ahead.

Documents show Accies took over the adjacent grounds from the Grange and Academical Trust in 1979, but a 6ft wide slice, including the south perimeter wall, was never handed over.

While some of it is public road, legal debate rages over whether this includes the 2ft-wide strip that once ran under the wall.

If this is not covered by the same access rights as the road, it could scupper public access to a vital part of the site – as the strip runs directly in front of a row of planned shops and restaurants.

In February, Grange members voted to start legal action to assert their rights over the land, a move that could lead to them effectively holding the controversial Accies development to ransom.

Expert advice given to Grange estimated the “ransom” value of the strip – the amount Accies could be expected to pay if they wish to acquire the land – at around £1m.

Grange bosses say their intention is not to halt the development, but to maximise the financial gain for the club.

But lawyers acting for the Raeburn Place Foundation Ltd (RPF), which is leading the Edinburgh Accies development, insist Grange’s ownership is “irrelevant” as the 2ft strip is part of the road, allowing developers and the public a right of access over it.

Meanwhile, campaigners Save Stockbridge, who oppose the scale of the Accies development, have raised concerns over the mess created by the delayed project – branding the fencing and mounds of rubble an eyesore.

Local Bruce Thompson said residents had previously complained to the council about the condition of the site, which was initially pegged for completion in 2014.

A spokesman for the RPF said the body had “all the consents it needs” to go ahead with the development, insisting the “ransom strip” was never part of their planning application.

He said Accies were made aware of local unhappiness over the state of the site and volunteers had been sent down to help tidy up.

No-one at the council was available for comment.