Mind the Gap – Meadowbank advert move and tree fell is a breach of planning consent which has endangered pedestrian safety and could cause rush hour travel disruption

Edinburgh Council has been criticised for narrowing the payment in front of Meadowbank Stadium by moving advertising hoardings to allow them to cut down more trees in what campaigners say is a breach of planning consent. It has also endangered pedestrian safety due to flooding and will cause rush hour travel disruption due to invalidated parking restrictions.

The perimeter fence and advertising hoardings around Meadowbank are covered by two approved planning applications which require them to be set back a minimum of 2 metres from the kerb to allow sufficient footpath space. They must also be behind trees and a separate advertising hoarding.

“That was the case until Tuesday,” said Save Meadowbank spokesperson Heather Peacock. “However without any warning the perimeter fence and advertising hoardings were moved forward by approximately three metres, leaving a gap from the kerb that is less than the required 2 metres.

“What had been a very wide pavement is now so narrow in places it causes a problem particularly to those who have mobility issues who are expected to navigate tree roots.

“And when it rains the limited passageway floods which means both the pavement and bus stop are unusable. People have to cross London Road at its busiest point without even the aid of a traffic island.

“The moved fence has also hidden street signage attached to lamp posts. This means parking restrictions outside Meadowbank Stadium are no longer enforceable which is likely to cause problems during rush hour periods. Edinburgh Council will be unable to take action against vehicles parked in the bus lane.

“The trees on a mound by the bus stop nearest Wishaw Terrace were supposed to be retained but having sneakily advanced the fence and hidden the trees behind adverts Edinburgh Council has just cut down the trees anyway in yet another example of environmental vandalism.

“When a householder is granted planning permission they are required to comply with all decisions. Edinburgh Council should do similarly. The fence should be returned to its approved position and the adverts removed because they breach planning consent. This is an accident waiting to happen caused by Edinburgh Council.

“Sadly nothing can now be done about the trees that have been cut down as part of Edinburgh Leisure’s vanity project to get itself a new headquarters onto which a cut-down sports centre will be attached.”

Attached:

–          Location maps approved by Edinburgh Council which show the advertising hoardings and perimeter fence must be at least 2 metres from the kerb and behind the trees

–          Photographs taken on 9 March 2018 showing part of the narrowed pathway and flooding with one photograph taken in February 2018 which shows the original fence line.

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Edinburgh Council “misled public” over recycling Meadowbank pitch

Edinburgh Council stands accused of publishing further misleading information on the Meadowbank redevelopment after it claimed complexity, cost and safety were the reasons for an artificial pitch on the site not being reused.

The local authority’s claim was made in a document published on its website on 13 September 2018 which stated “The 3G pitch has not been recycled as would be a complex and expensive process with no certainty that the relocated pitch would be safe to use” (sic). This was in response to a news release, issued by the Save Meadowbank Campaign nine days previously, which criticised Edinburgh Council for not recycling the 3G pitch.

However Edinburgh Council now admits it has no documents to back-up its claim about complexity, cost and safety. No report was ever commissioned about possible reuse of the 3G sports pitch and Edinburgh Council holds no document in which the suggestion was ever made or discussed. Instead, according to Gabriella Trybalska of the Council’s Information Governance Unit, “Council staff used their own experience of managing 3G pitch projects to draw conclusions on the recycling of the pitch”.

It has also now emerged that the first document the Council holds about possible recycling of any part of the Meadowbank pitch was on 22 September 2018, eighteen days after the Council was criticised for destroying the pitch for a ‘staff treasure hunt’ and nine days after the Council published its claims about complexity, cost and safety.

“This demonstrates yet again why Edinburgh Council cannot be trusted with its claims about Meadowbank,” said Save Meadowbank spokesperson Heather Peacock.

“Edinburgh Council allowed its staff to destroy a perfectly good 3G sports pitch for the sake of a staff treasure hunt. When this campaign group complained about it Edinburgh Council responded by publishing a completely unsubstantiated claim on its website. Now it transpires the Council made no attempt to recycle an extremely expensive sports facility.

“Damaging the facility was bad enough but then attempting to cover it up by making claims which are not substantiated by any documentation is a blatant attempt to mislead the public.”

Attached:

FOI response documents provided by Edinburgh Council

News release issued by Save Meadowbank campaign on 4 September 2018: https://savemeadowbank.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/staff-treasure-hunt-takes-priority-and-ruins-100k-facility/

FAQ document published by Edinburgh Council on 13 September 2018

Council destroyed Meadowbank grandstand despite acknowledging potential business case for its retention

Edinburgh Council “cannot be trusted” after it invited campaigners to submit a business case for retaining Meadowbank’s iconic grandstand then demolished it anyway without waiting for the document it commissioned to be prepared.

At the Save Meadowbank public meeting on 27 November 2018, the campaign put forward an alternative to the Council’s plan to demolish the grandstand, with an Alternative Vision retaining the grandstand structure and bringing it back into use for income-generating events such as concerts. Edinburgh Council’s Chief Executive Office circulated a briefing document to Council leaders on 30 November 2018 which suggested “Council officers (including Finance and Estates) meet informally with a smaller number of campaign group members to talk through their funding proposal and then invite them to submit a business case.”

An initial meeting between the Council and Save Meadowbank took place just before Christmas 2018 to discuss the Alternative Vision and a follow-up meeting was arranged for 16 January 2019 to go through the figures. However before that meeting could take place a senior official announced the grandstand was to be destroyed with less than one working days’ notice.

Save Meadowbank spokesperson Heather Peacock explained: “We were in on-going discussions with senior officials regarding the plans for Meadowbank, specifically about saving the iconic grandstand and the hugely popular landscaped area which contained some extremely rare trees.

“We had asked repeatedly to see a copy of the project plan and be kept informed of key decisions, including any demolition or felling of trees.

“On the evening of Friday 11 January 2019 we were blind copied into an e-mail that suddenly announced the grandstand demolition would start on the next working day, and that removal of trees would start shortly afterwards.

“That is simply not acceptable and not what we expected given the on-going discussions about saving both the trees and the grandstand. It is certainly not in the spirit of transparency and engagement promised by Councillors at the planning meeting on 29 June 2018.

“Edinburgh Council with one hand requested a business case and further discussions while with its other hand it destroyed the very building the discussions were intended to save.

“It is hard to understand Edinburgh Council’s thinking. It was either not acting in good faith, in which case its officials simply cannot be trusted, or the Council’s left hand is unaware what its right hand is doing. Either way does not bode well for future management of this major project.”

Attached:

Briefing document for Edinburgh Council Executive Director of Place dated 30 November 2018 and subsequently sent to Council leaders Adam McVey and Cammy Day.

Call for transparency in Edinburgh University’s secret £12 million link to fund Edinburgh Leisure HQ at Meadowbank

Edinburgh University is expected to contribute £12 million of the £47.4 million required to build new headquarters for Edinburgh Leisure and a cut-down sports centre on the site currently occupied by Meadowbank Stadium.

The figure is contained within a Briefing note sent to Edinburgh Council’s Chief Executive just before planning permission was granted for the controversial development.

The note shows total funding of £47.4 million, the largest of which was £27.7 million from land transferred to the Council’s housing revenue account (HRA) and the sale of land for commercial use. It stated: “The business case assumes the following receipts:

1) Plots A, B and Part C to HRA £12.1 million;

2) Part Plot C to Edinburgh University £12 million;

3) Share of Powerleague sale – £3.6 million.

“The most significant risk to the delivery of the new sports centre is currently that the Council may not be able to secure the receipts required from the proposed housing and commercial sites (1 and 2 above) …

“Discussions are taking place with Edinburgh University in respect of the proposed student accommodation on Plot C. Discussions are at an early stage and consultation has not taken placing regarding this proposal. In the event that the University does not proceed with the purchase of part of Plot C the fall back would be to also transfer this site to the HRA. This would reduce the potential receipt to circa £3 million”

Campaigners have given their reaction to these figures and criticised both organisations for a lack of transparency.

“Edinburgh Council’s business case is clearly heavily reliant upon a substantial contribution from Edinburgh University,” said Save Meadowbank spokesperson Heather Peacock.

“This £12 million is not guaranteed and is for a project for which no consultation has taken place. It was never mentioned in documents supporting the planning application that was lodged in January 2018 nor when the application was considered the following June.

“Almost 900 formal objections were made to the planning applications from which Edinburgh Council knew full well there was strong opposition to student accommodation being built in the area.

“But Edinburgh Council went ahead regardless and now face an additional £9 million black hole in the finance for a vanity project that was instigated by Edinburgh Leisure in the hope of  getting the Council to provide it with a new headquarters.

“Questions must be asked about Edinburgh University’s involvement in the project. Not just any financial offer that has contributed towards the destruction of an iconic national sports venue but also in terms of how it is now benefiting through the relocation of sports groups from Meadowbank and who now use its expanded facility at Peffermill.

“There is clear public interest in what has gone on between Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh University. The campaign calls on both organisations to put into the public domain all detail relating to the University’s involvement in the Meadowbank project.”

Attached:

Briefing document for Edinburgh Council Chief Executive dated 20 June 2018.

Edinburgh Council should provide more detail on “misleading” tree promise for Meadowbank

Campaigners have criticised Edinburgh Council for printing what they claim are “misleading” claims about replacing trees that have been felled on the Meadowbank Stadium site.

Sixty healthy trees, including three very rare Wheatley Elms, are being removed to make way for new headquarters for Edinburgh Leisure and a cut down sports centre. Edinburgh Council has put up posters around the Meadowbank site which claim they are “planting more trees as part of the wider development, ending up with many more than we have now.”

“Unfortunately for Edinburgh Council that statement doesn’t match what has been agreed or planned,” explained Save Meadowbank spokesperson Heather Peacock.

“We call on Edinburgh Council to state how many trees will be planted on the Meadowbank site, who made this decision and when.

“Edinburgh Council is required to consult on the entire site and produce a masterplan before work takes place on any part of the site. That consultation is supposed to be on-going and no decisions have been made far less a masterplan produced. It is therefore simply wrong for Edinburgh Council to claim ‘many more tress than we have now’ will be planted on the site when nothing has been agreed.

“The only thing known for certain is Edinburgh Council plan to remove at least 60 mature healthy trees, some of which are extremely rare, against the advice of its own forestry service team.

“Planting small trees are also not replacements because it will take years for saplings to even come close to matching any of the mature trees that have either been killed or are next in line for the chop.

“Edinburgh Council’s claim is disingenuous and misleading. Once again Edinburgh Council has been caught out trying to mislead the public about what is planned for Meadowbank.”

In June Edinburgh Council’s forestry service team referred to the Meadowbank tree cull as “an outrageous act” in the response it provided to councillors as part of the planning application process.

An unnamed Council forestry official wrote: “I object to the proposed tree removals as part of the Meadowbank stadium development. There should have been intention at the beginning of the design stage to retain and incorporate these trees into any new site design.”

Referring to the Wheatley Elms, the official stated “what an outrageous act it would be to remove any of these trees.”

Attached:

1. Photograph of poster displayed on perimeter fence around Meadowbank Stadium site.

2. The only documents approved by the planning committee for the entire Meadowbank site:
“18_00154_PPP-_01__LOCATION_PLAN-3822189” and “18_00154_PPP-_06__ENABLING_WORKS_SITE_PERIMETER_PROPOSED_FENCE_LINE-3833033”

3.  “18_00154_PPP-DM_SUB-COMMITTEE_REPORT-3965511” contains on pages 70-71 the view of Edinburgh Council’s forestry service team.

Lack of demolition notification shows Council is ‘embarrassed’ by plans for mini-Meadowbank

Meadowbank’s grandstand was finally demolished today but only after campaigners criticised Edinburgh Council for the way the demolition was handled.

“When Cockenzie power station was demolished advance notice was given and people turned out in their thousands to watch from miles around,” said Save Meadowbank spokesperson Heather Peacock.

“Compare that with the actions of Edinburgh Council, who wanted to knock down Meadowbank Stadium on the quiet without letting people know their plans in advance. It is clear that the Council is embarrassed by what it has done to the Stadium which was much loved by the hundreds of thousands who used it each year.

“The velodrome went with no advance notice whatsoever. Demolition of the grandstand started with only a select few being informed by e-mail on a Friday evening that work would begin the following Monday. A promise was made that locals would be informed but residents from most streets that surround the famous stadium have told us they received no such advance notice.

“No specific date was given for taking down the trees that Edinburgh Leisure required removed in order to build its new headquarters on the site.

“And the final work on the grandstand took place at 6am on a Sunday morning for which the only advance notice was a road sign informing motorists that the road would be closed for three hours without giving any reason,

“The Save Meadowbank campaign group will continue to press for a suitable sports facility on the entire Meadowbank site. But this is a day to reflect on the end of an iconic venue. It also marks the end of Edinburgh’s sporting ambition with the proposed new sports centre lacking over 40% of the existing facilities and 97% of the spectator capacity.

“It is the beginning of the end for Edinburgh City Football Club who have been left high and dry by Edinburgh Council as the club will not be able to play SPFL matches in a ground that is due to have a capacity of just 499.

“It also ends interscholastic competitions, firework displays, outdoor concerts and other such events at Meadowbank.

“And it breaches planning conditions for the proposed smaller replacement facility because it was agreed no work could start on any part of the site until a masterplan had been prepared and approved by the planning authority.”

Attached:

– Road sign showing closure of London Road. This was the only notification to those passing of work taking place today.

– Internal Edinburgh Council e-mail sent on Friday 11 January 2019 about decision to begin felling trees and demolish the grandstand at Meadowbank, shown below.

Edinburgh Council “continues to mislead public” at poorly attended Meadowbank consultations

Campaigners have criticised Edinburgh Council for continuing to mislead the public in the consultation on its controversial plan to downsize Meadowbank Stadium and build office space for Edinburgh Leisure.

Three Council-run drop-in sessions have taken place within the past fortnight at which the public were asked to comment on what they thought should happen on the Meadowbank site. This included several maps which show a different site boundary from the one approved by the Council’s own planning sub-committee.

“The maps and diagrams shown as part of the consultation are misleading because they fail to accurately show the area covered by the consultation,” said Save Meadowbank campaigner Heather Peacock.

“When the Council’s planning sub-committee approved the Meadowbank plan on 29 June only two documents were approved. One was for a site perimeter fence. The other was a location plan which shows the entire Meadowbank site, not just a sub-section of it.

“Edinburgh Council is required to consult on the entire site but its consultation fails to mention this. There is a sports-centre sized hole within the maps they displayed at last week’s consultation events.

“It is disingenuous and misleading for the Council to claim the consultation is about only part of the site. The approved location plan is clearly for the entire site, not a sub-section of it.

“The Council is in effect attempting to move the goalposts by trying to convince people they should only comment on part of the site. This questionable tactic raises further doubt about the validity of the consultation.

“The Council also didn’t do enough to publicise these sessions. Less than one hundred people attended, which means each of the Save Meadowbank campaign public meetings on their own attracted more people than all of the Council sessions combined.

“Council officials also attempted to misdirect the response by providing pre-written flags for people to place on the site map. All of those flags mentioned property development. None mentioned sport.”

The location map approved by Edinburgh Council’s planning sub-committee on 29 June 2018 is attached along with photographs taken at last week’s Council-run drop-in session which show a different site boundary.

Attached:

Photographs of maps displayed at Council-run consultation sessions:

The only documents approved by the planning committee:
“18_00154_PPP-_01__LOCATION_PLAN-3822189” and “18_00154_PPP-_06__ENABLING_WORKS_SITE_PERIMETER_PROPOSED_FENCE_LINE-3833033”