Campaigners today welcomed Edinburgh Council’s decision to re-consider its plan to sell Meadowbank Stadium.

The Council had agreed to sell the Meadowbank site to property developers in order to fund facilities elsewhere. But faced with thousands of objections the Council today agreed to go back to the drawing board.

A working group will be set-up with a brief to ‘re-open and examine the principle of the sale of the Meadowbank site either in whole or part”. Councillors also agreed that “no parameters are set within which the group must confine its deliberations.”

Campaigners had been concerned at the wording of Council leader Ewan Aitken’s original motion but expressed delight it was passed with important amendments.

“The motion as it stood clearly continued to pre-suppose the sale of the Meadowbank site,” said campaign spokesperson Heather Peacock. “The amendments broaden the consultation group’s remit sufficiently to address one of our main concerns over the motion.”

“Unfortunately the working group does not include representation from the Save Meadowbank campaign group. Nor does it allow for full public participation in the consultation process.

“We are also concerned that the working group must prepare an interim report for presentation to the council by 28 June 2007. This seems an incredibly short timescale for such an important debate.”

Today’s decision was taken after a two month campaign. 600 attended a hastily-arranged protest meeting, the same number marched from Meadowbank to the City Chambers and almost 10,000 signed petitions. The campaign also revealed the original decision to sell Meadowbank was done without proper consultation and was based upon misinformation about funding.

Concluded Peacock: “Our campaign to save Meadowbank has been successful thus far. But the job is not complete and we will continue to work and lobby until public opinion becomes central to the debate.”


Edinburgh at Risk

A new support network has been formed by Edinburgh campaign groups with the full support of a former top government adviser who is highly critical of the current Labour administration.

“Edinburgh At Risk (EAR) is a non-political umbrella organisation open to all who value the city’s culture, history and future,” said spokesperson Kevin Ferguson. “It is concerned at the many present and planned sales of public land and facilities and wishes full recognition of Edinburgh’s Common Good.”

EAR has been founded by a number of on-going campaigns including

Save Our Old Town

Save Glenogle Baths

Save Meadowbank

Sighthill Says No

Portobello Park Action Group


Friends of Corstorphine Hill

A launch video showing many of the campaigns is available on You Tube.

EAR supporters include a former government adviser who has criticised the Labour party in Edinburgh for representing the interests of developers instead of their constituents. Sir Bernard Crick, who worked with David Blunkett at the Home Office, is appalled at the way the local council has repeatedly decided to “sell off the family silver” for a quick gain and without proper consideration of the long-term consequences.

An honorary fellow at Edinburgh University, Sir Bernard thinks councillors have allowed themselves to get too close to developers. He said: “As a life-long member of the Labour Party and former government adviser on citizenship, I am deeply embarrassed, indeed angry, at how close leading Edinburgh Labour councillors have got to the developers all over the city.

“Of course the council is desperate not to have to raise council tax, but the answer cannot be to sell off the family silver. This is irreversible sale, not even a pawnshop.”

EAR will share advice and information between groups and coordinate demands for a much closer and earlier consultation with residents on proposed developments.

EAR is planning a series of initiatives to raise awareness, stimulate debate and highlight democratic abuse. Its first act has been to question all candidates in the forthcoming council elections about their stance on a range of issues including, housing, Common Good, planning and the retention of publicly owned green and leisure spaces. The results will be published before polling day.

Meadowbank grandstand is worth saving for its architecture

Meadowbank’s grandstand should be saved on architectural grounds. That’s the view of Dr. Dimitris Theodossopoulos, a lecturer in Architectural Technology at Edinburgh University.

Council leader Ewan Aitken wants his colleagues to vote on a motion that will sacrifice the Meadowbank grandstand for a small community centre so that hundreds of homes can be built on the current sports centre site.

“The architectural beauty of Meadowbank is mainly due to its grandstand,” said Dr. Theodossopoulos. “Get rid of that and the site it loses its character. The grandstand has to stay.

“Meadowbank is one of the last major examples of design carried out by the City Council architects. It can be included in the contemporary examples of creative attitude by local authorities all over Britain, like London’s Royal Festival Hall.

“The Stadium uses an interesting dynamic system of concrete beams and columns to form the main skeleton, which is clearly and elegantly expressed. As someone who is carrying out research on historic and modern shell architecture and structural forms, I find the way the steel members tie the grandstand along the London Road elevation a quite interesting feature, reminiscent of early hi-tech sports architecture like P. L. Nervi’s Palazzetto dello Sport in Rome for the 1960 Olympics. The result is a rhythmical composition which with an improved landscape and lighting scheme can become more prominent.

“I am aware of the problems the council has faced in maintaining the Stadium but I believe the architectural and cultural prominence of the site can be matched to its significance as a vital sports facility for the community and therefore a carefully drafted development masterplan can provide the required value for all of East Edinburgh.

“The whole project could become more viable by incorporating the industrial sites to the south and by demolishing the redundant office block to the east.

“There has not been a comprehensive feasibility study for such an important development. Only a few arguments have been considered and the debate has been based only on the finances needed to create Sighthill and refurbish the Commonwealth Pool.

“The draft development brief only states no listed buildings are contained in the site which gives a very limited idea of what can constitute heritage or architectural value.

“I therefore register my strong objection to the scheme and the demolition of the Stadium.”

Campaigners welcomed his views. Save Meadowbank spokesperson Paula Ferguson commented: “The motion tabled by council leader Ewan Aitken does not address concerns of local residents because it still means the building of hundreds homes on the Meadowbank site.

“It doesn’t admit mistakes have been made. Instead it asks councillors to re-affirm previous decisions. Yet we now know these original decisions were flawed due to failings in the original consultation process and a funding disagreement with SportScotland.

“The Liberal Democrats want Meadowbank refurbished. The SNP has done a complete turnaround and is now calling for the same.

“A local poll showed 87% of respondents wanted to Save Meadowbank. Given this level of support, why can’t Labour simply admit they made a mistake and propose a reversal of the decision to demolish Meadowbank?”

Labour haven’t listened

Ewan Aitken’s proposal to stand by the decision to demolish Meadowbank Stadium and set-up a working group to consider a new community sports centre in east Edinburgh completely misses the point and shows he hasn’t listened to what thousands of people have been telling him.

That’s the Save Meadowbank campaign group’s response to a motion the Labour party will put before the full Edinburgh council on 26 April.

“The message from the public has been crystal clear. People have signed petitions in their thousands. They want Meadowbank Stadium saved, not converted into flats,” said Save Meadowbank spokesperson Paula Ferguson.

“A community centre is not what the citizens of Edinburgh want to see on the Meadowbank site. They want a sports stadium.

“Every other political party has got the message apart from Labour who by their very actions seem keen to commit electoral suicide.

Councillor Aitken has already admitted the council’s consultation “wasn’t what it should have been” because local residents and users of Meadowbank weren’t consulted prior to the decision being made to demolish the Stadium.

The council has always claimed it had to sell the Meadowbank site because SportScotland wouldn’t provide money for its refurbishment. Yet only last weekend SportScotland’s Chief Executive Stewart Harris said money could have been made available and the decision not to refurbish Meadowbank was the council’s alone.

Medowbank gets a reprive as SportScotland’s role is again questioned

Politicians of all parties last night agreed Edinburgh Council had to revisit its decision to demolish Meadowbank Stadium. And one senior councillor challenged SportScotland over their claim that they would have considered a proposal to refurbish the popular sports centre.

Deputy Lord Provost Steve Cardownie voted in favour of the plan to sell the Meadowbank site. But the SNP councillor said he made his decision based upon information that is now in doubt.

Speaking at a hustings event organised by the Federation of Small Businesses, Cardownie said: “The Chief Executive of SportScotland said in 2004 that refurbishment of Meadowbank would not be funded yet I read a letter at the weekend where he said they would have considered it.

“There is no alternative. We have to review this decision and go back to the start.”

Council leader Ewan Aitken didn’t want to comment on the SportScotland funding but agreed the plan had to be reviewed. Referring to the original consultation carried out by Edinburgh Leisure which omitted to ask either local residents or Stadium users, Aitken said: “I have already agreed the consultation in 2004 wasn’t what it should have been. Donald Anderson has already committed us to reviewing facilities in east Edinburgh. I am committed to that. We will be able to say something in due course.”

Gavin Corbett of the Green Party called on the council to sign up to the national standards for community engagement. “We were on the Save Meadowbank march. It’s not Meadowbank that’s past its sell by date – it’s Labour,” he added.

Tory leader Iain Whyte agreed to look again at the decision. “We will have to review it but the biggest worry is we won’t see improvements because there aren’t any funds.

“There is a fundamental issue about sports facilities in Edinburgh that have been allowed to rot.”

Liberal Democrat leader Jenny Dawe paid tribute to the Save Meadowbank campaign and said part of the funding problem would be met by her party at a national level. “The extent of the campaign has encouraged Donald Anderson and others to revisit it. When the council made its decision in 2004 there was a clause that it would be looked at again if other possible sites came up so it wasn’t a final decision.”

Edinburgh council claim they need to sell the Meadowbank site in order to refurbish the Royal Commonwealth Pool. Dawe countered this by saying: “Nicol Stephen has pledged he will fund the money for two Olympic pools in the north of Scotland and redevelop the Royal Commonwealth Pool.”

SportScotland funding claim means councillors misled us

SportScotland’s claim that they would have considered a project to refurbish Meadowbank Stadium has today led to accusations that councillors misled the public over the decision to close the popular Edinburgh sports centre.

Council leader Ewan Aitken last month told campaigners that SportScotland wouldn’t fund a refurbishment of the ground but they have since contradicted him by saying they would have considered it.

“One of the things they (SportScotland) made clear was that they were looking for new things,” Aitken told campaigners. “They weren’t going to allow us to refurbish things.”

Aitken wasn’t alone in this view. His colleague Ian Perry, who represents the Meadowbank ward, wrote to a campaigner in early February. He said: “Unfortunately the site at Meadowbank does not meet the specifications that are laid down by the Scottish Executive and SportScotland who are providing most of the finance. If we do not meet their specifications we will not receive the grant.”

Addressing last month’s Save Meadowbank public meeting, former council leader Donald Anderson said: “The advice that we’ve had from our officials is that a refurbished Meadowbank Stadium couldn’t meet SportScotland guidelines in terms of quality of provision it needs in order to attract their funding.”

These explanations have been questioned by campaigners following an open letter from Stewart Harris, SportScotland’s Chief Executive, who said: “We look equally favourably on new or refurbished projects.

“Whilst SportScotland provides specification guidelines for different types of facilities to all applicants, at no time did we indicate that the Meadowbank site was too small to be considered for redevelopment. The council however has stated it requires a larger footprint to update and improve the facilities currently available and to maintain them on one site.”

Save Meadowbank spokesperson Paula Ferguson expressed concern at the contradictory statements. “Several councillors have told us they were forced into the decision by SportScotland who have now denied it. Who should we believe?

“This whole process has been anything but transparent. We need a full explanation of what decisions were made, when, by whom and under what conditions.”