Size does matter, Save Stockbridge campaigners told a packed public meeting in LifeCare House last night. The group called the open public meeting to raise awareness of what is being proposed at Raeburn Place and to update the local community on plans to fight Edinburgh Accies redevelopment proposals.
Save Stockbridge chairman Bruce Thompson told the meeting, which was filmed by a BBC film crew for a forthcoming documentary: “We are not against any development – we are against this particular development. You need to understand what is being proposed, and make up your own minds”.
Eight hundred people signed Save Stockbridge petitions at street stalls last weekend, with hundreds more group adding their names to petitions in local shops. The group has also produced thousands of posters, badges and stickers – and their website, www.savestockbridge.com, has received 550 hits since the start of the month.
“We spoke to thousands of people at the weekend, and 97% of those we spoke to were anti-development. That totally contradicts what we’re being told by the Accies – and these are local people”.
Mr Thompson said that Save Stockbridge representatives had put alternative proposals for a scaled-down redevelopment including housing and a smaller retail base to Edinburgh Accies but ‘they are not prepared to budge – they’re sticking to their plans.”
Using the developer’s drawings, engineer and local resident James McLean gave a technical breakdown of the redevelopment plans and said: “The developers have used some artistic license and let’s be clear – this development is huge. Looking from Inverleith Park it dwarfs everything behind it; the postcard view up to Edinburgh Castle – a very important view – is destroyed”.
Mr McLean pointed out that the retail space proposed for the development would have a serious impact on local businesses. “The Accies retail area would be like adding thirty small shops. The upper floor of the development would also see a quite large area for bars, kitchens and function suites – that could be anything; it’s the sort of huge space a company like Weatherspoons would give their eye teeth for.”
Mr McLean estimates that, if it went ahead, the new development would have 25% of all retail space in Stockbridge, and said: “This is not a rugby development, this is a retail development. Edinburgh Accies does not need a 2500 seat stand – their last home game attracted 400 spectators. The Accies plans also reduce the sporting footprint, cutting from two full size grass pitches to one, so you can see where their emphasis is – the retail completely dwarfs the rugby.”
He added that traffic could also be a serious issue, particularly during construction and then with delivery vehicles accessing the site, and that the new stadium, with 2500 seats and additional 2500 standing spectators, has only fifty parking spaces – a potential nightmare for residents with cars. “Although there are only fourteen match days, the retail units will be open 365 days a year, so don’t move your car on a Saturday or Sunday!” He also believes mature trees on Comely Bank Road could be in danger during construction work when the Accies perimeter wall is removed.
The last speaker was local resident John Donnelly, who said the Accies consultation with the local community has been inadequate and that their case ‘lacked transparency’. He told the meeting: “So many people were unaware of what is being proposed – if you genuinely want to involve and consult with your local community, why do it on your own turf and why only do it twice? We want Accies to stay, but all we can do is react to the plans that are put in front of us. It’s the scale of the redevelopment – Edinburgh Accies don’t need a stadium of the scale they are proposing; they don’t need it, we don’t want it and we’re not alone. The level of support our campaign is attracting totally disproves the myth that this community is split – that is just not the case.”
Local resident Bill Anderson said it was time to put pressure on local councillors to ‘stand up and be counted’. SNP Councillor Gavin Barrie was present at the meeting and said: “I came here to hear the views of local people; I want to be a listening politician. The presentations have been very good, but I won’t put forward any opinions at this stage as to do so could prejudice my right to do so later as the planning process goes through Council. I would point out though that the developers have not yet sought planning permission so it would be difficult to comment on something I haven’t seen. You may have to reconvene when the application has been submitted and you know the exact detail.”
Closing the meeting, Bruce Thompson said that the campaign group will try to make local residents aware when Edinburgh Accies planning application has been submitted and that people will then have 21 days to express a view on the proposals. Save Stockbridge also made available a list of Planning Committee councillors, along with contact details of Inverleith councillors and a summary of eleven reasons why local residents may choose to object to the planning application. However Mr Thomson did say: “What we have done is provide you with as much information as we can. We have posters here, petitions to sign if you haven’t already done so and contributions toward campaign funds are welcome. Now, you must make up your own minds and go with whatever you think is right.”