Council to look at options for Meadowbank

Meadowbank Stadium’s future looks more secure following Edinburgh Council’s decision to scrap plans for a new arena at Sighthill and concentrate instead on upgrading the existing facility.

Edinburgh Council this afternoon decided to commission a report on refurbishment options plus the feasibility of building a new stadium on the existing site.

Deputy Council leader Steve Cardownie told councillors that this meant the end of plans formulated by the previous administration to sell Meadowbank for housing and use the money to build at Sighthill.

Save Meadowbank spokesman Kevin Connor welcomed the decision but stressed work was still needed to ensure the entire site is retained for sports use. “The Council knows this is a big issue,” he said. “The public is right behind the idea of saving Meadowbank, as was proved when over one thousand people attended our two public meetings. We don’t believe it is right to sell facilities to pay for their upkeep and need to work with the Council to ensure they don’t decide to sell some of the land.”

Councillors heard deputations from three community councils, all of whom stressed the importance of saving Meadowbank.

Alyson Cameron of Trinity community council said the Council had to “look honestly” at refurbishment. She said: “Selling Meadowbank means it will be lost forever.” If it is sold there will never again be such a large scale sports facility in north or east Edinburgh.”

Phyllis Herriot of Craigentinny community council highlighted the recent loss of sport facilities in the area. “We appreciate your financial predicament but don’t make the wrong decision,” she pleaded. “A sound mind is a sound body. Physical education is important and Meadowbank must stay.”

Keith Bell of Sighthill/Broomhouse/Parkhead community council called the previous administration’s process to sell Meadowbank “a sham” and criticised the lack of public consultation. His organisation had not even been invited to sit on the recent working group.

“We don’t want a stadium on our only open space and have been accused of NIMBYism. But you have people at Meadowbank who do want the facility so refurbish what is already there. If it’s good enough for the Council to refurbish the City Chambers then I don’t see why Meadowbank can’t be refurbished.”

SNP councillor Deidre Brock tabled today’s Council motion. She said: “There is a groundswell of opinion for retaining facilities at Meadowbank. Their opinions must and will be taken into account.”

Marjorie Thomas of the Lib Dems seconded the motion. She praised the Save Meadowbank campaign and community councils plus senior athletics coach Bill Walker.
“Meadowbank has so much going for it. What we have here is 20 years’ lack of investment. National government has also to take the blame for this and they need to provide more than £6 per head towards national facilities.”

The Conservatives agreed. Their spokesman, Gordon Buchanan, described it as a “pitiful amount”. “We call on SportScotland to release funds set aside for Hunter’s Hall to fund the Royal Commonwealth Pool refurbishment. We also need to look at ways to work with the private sector and develop a long-term strategy for sports provision.”

Green councillor Alison Johnstone highlighted the £18 million refurbishment figure provided by Save Meadowbank expert Dr Dimitris Theodossopoulos and the cost of recent upgrades at both Iffley Road (£19 million) and Gateshead (£15 million).

Labour also now want to see Meadowbank retained in some form. Paul Godzik said: “In light of the working group report and the strength of feeling on this issue we should look at funding from the Scottish Executive and SportScotland.

“Meadowbank is the ideal location. Politics is about compromise. Labour is ready to compromise on location. I hope the Lib Dem/SNP administration will come up with a viable plan to provide the facilities at Meadowbank and not compromise on quality.”

The report is likely to be put before councillors when they meet in November.

LABOUR U-TURN ON MEADOWBANK

Labour is about to perform an astonishing u-turn and propose that Meadowbank Stadium be saved.

The decision to turn the ground into a housing estate was made by Labour three years ago when it ran Edinburgh Council. The party lost control of the Council in May and has told campaigners it now wants the entire site saved.

Said Councillor Angela Blacklock: “My group has a view and I agree with it. Meadowbank should be a world class sports facility and none of the land should be sold off for housing.”

Her view echoes that of former Council leader Ewan Aitken. When he addressed a packed public meeting on Friday he admitted mistakes had been made and that he had changed his mind. He said: “I want us to end up here, I really do.”

Save Meadowbank spokesman Kevin Connor applauded this complete turn around. “We welcome this wholeheartedly. They have taken on board the public concerns.

“It was Labour who instigated this plan. The Lib Dems have stated their 100% support to our campaign and their SNP colleagues have called for all the facilities to be retained. So we hope this will now be an end to the matter.

“We look foward to working with the Council on the best way to refurbish Meadowbank.”

Labour’s motion will be aired when the full Council meets at the City Chambers on Thursday morning.

Official Games document pledges almost £30 million to Commonwealth Pool

An official document for Scotland’s 2014 Commonwealth Games bid says the Scottish Executive will fund most of the refurbishment work on the Royal Commonwealth Pool.

Glasgow’s “Candidate City File”, which was submitted to the Commonwealth Games Federation in May, says £29.63 million is to be spent on the Royal Commonwealth Pool with £28.8 million coming from the Scottish Executive. This contradicts previous statements from Edinburgh Council and SportScotland who have said only £4 million will come from national funding.

“We have been calling for the government to pay a far greater share for the work required to bring the pool back to Commonwealth Games standard,” said Save Meadowbank spokesman Bill Walker. “The only reason Edinburgh Council decided to sell Meadowbank Stadium was because it needed the money to pay for this upgrade. By giving a fairer percentage to Edinburgh for the Commonwealth Pool, central government would in effect be saving Meadowbank Stadium from closure.

“Members of the independent working group brought the Commonwealth Games document to the Council’s attention. This is an official document circulated around Commonwealth countries that says the Executive is prepared to give almost £30 million. Edinburgh Council needs to raise this with the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland and the Scottish Executive.”

The candidate city file is a 251 page document that took eighteen months to prepare. The official http://www.glasgow2014.com website describes it as “a huge piece of work, this document details all of our plans for the Commonwealth Games in 2014. It’s a long read, but a good one!”

Edinburgh Council is expected to make a decision about Meadowbank when it meets this Thursday. Campaigners have called on people to meet outside the City Chambers at 09:30 to greet councillors as they arrive.

Hundreds attend Meadowbank Meeting

Over 400 people ignored the attraction of the Edinburgh Festival to attend last night’s Save Meadowbank public meeting and call for the site to be refurbished.
 
Campaigners highlighted the £30 million “black hole” in the Council’s current plans and the fact that most of the working group – including a majority of councillors – disagreed with its chairman’s view on refurbishment.
 
They then heard speeches of support from former sportsmen Scott Hastings, Chris Black and Ross Hepburn plus David Hoy, father of Olympic cyclist Chris.

Rugby legend Scott Hastings told the meeting Meadowbank had played a large part in his sporting development. He said: “This facility gave people like me an opportunity. It is an ideal central location, not only because of the track but because it has Holyrood Park nearby. We have to put the magic back into Meadowbank.”

David Hoy called for the velodrome to be retained. He said: “It is the only velodrome in Scotland. Without it we will lose a history and a heritage which, since 1976, has produced countless champions. Without the velodrome and the coaching support structure at Meadowbank, Chris Hoy, Craig MacLean, Ross Edgar, James Macallum and Kate Cullen would not have won Olympic, World and Commonwealth medals.
 
“Edinburgh Council has invested tens of thousands of pounds in grant aid to the Edinburgh Racers Youth Club. Without the velodrome at Meadowbank, they will be no more. We will lose the champions of the future and there will be no cycling medals won at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.”

Ross Hepburn broke high jump records at Meadowbank. He recently returned to Scotland after a long absence and told the meeting he couldn’t believe how Meadowbank had been left to fall into disrepair. “What disappoints me is the decay. I am so disappointed coming here to see a place like this rotting away.”
 
Five community councils also spoke in favour of retaining Meadowbank, including Keith Bell of Sighthill community council who said his area was happy for the facility to remain where it is because they didn’t want the proposed new stadium at Sighthill.
 
Former MSP Colin Fox paid tribute to the Save Meadowbank campaign. “This campaign is based on honesty and integrity. You deserve all the credit in the world for keeping this place open.”
 
Current councillors Gary Peacock (Lib Dem), Alison Johnstone (Green) and Rob Munn (SNP) said they wanted the Council to establish how much it would cost to refurbish Meadowbank. Said Munn: “We have changed our position because we have been listening.”
 
Former Council leader Ewan Aitken concluded the meeting by admitting mistakes had been made and that he had changed his mind. He said: “I want us to end up here, I really do.”

Campaign spokesman Kevin Connor thanked everyone for attending. “This proves yet again that lots of people are prepared to take action. Between us all we really can Save Meadowbank.

“We have campaigned to retain the whole of the Meadowbank site and to have it refurbished in a realistic and affordable way. We call on the new administration to listen to the majority view on the working group and fully investigate their options, including funding, so that all facilities can be retained here on the entire site.”
 
Councillors will consider the working group chairman’s report when they meet at the City Chambers on Thursday. Campaigners urge people to turn up at 09:30 BST to greet councillors as they arrive for the meeting.

Public meeting: Fri 17th Aug, 7pm Meadowbank

Edinburgh Council is due to discuss the future of Meadowbank on 23rd Aug.

Our Public Meeting on 17th Aug is a chance for councillors to be reminded of just how strong the opposition remains to council plans to turn the Meadowbank site into yet another luxury housing development. More Details

Community Councils want Meadowbank saved

Five community councils were represented on the Meadowbank working group. All five are against the plan to replace Meadowbank with a housing estate. They want sports facilities retained on site and issued the following joint statement:

“The community councils applaud the council’s over-arching commitment to make Edinburgh the most active city in Europe. To achieve this, a wide range of sports facilities must be accessible to all citizens wherever they live and whatever their sporting abilities.

“Despite its normal good approach to consultation, on this occasion the council failed to seek the views of community councils, local sporting organisations and the wider general public. As a result their proposals, with the emphasis on national standard facilities, do not reflect the most urgent sporting needs of local communities in Edinburgh.

“We reject the short-sighted policy of selling well-used sports grounds and public land for housing developments. The community councils of north and east Edinburgh are committed to the retention of the athletics track and associated sports facilities at Meadowbank. If Meadowbank is lost, it is lost forever. There will never again be a large scale sports facility in such a central location.”

Giacomo Modica, chair of Craigentinny/Meadowbank community council, added: “The council should scrap the whole idea of using Meadowbank as a financial mechanism for creating an international sports stadium. Additional funding needs to be sought from other sources such as the private sector or central government. Had proper maintenance taken place at Meadowbank it would not need such a large sum spent on it today. The working group wasn’t given detail about the standards required for specific sports. The existing facility is clearly suitable for national competition because Meadowbank currently hosts such events. We don’t need to spend such a large sum on Olympic standard facilities.”

Alyson Cameron, secretary of Trinity community council, commented: “The council cannot afford to proceed with its grandiose plan for a new stadium at Sighthill. It should concentrate on what it already has and do what is necessary to keep the facilities at Meadowbank.”

Dawson Currie of Portobello community council, said: “Meadowbank is a wonderful central location. Sports facilities should remain there. The council should scrap its plan for Sighthill and instead build a modern sports stadium on the existing Meadowbank site.”

David King of Northfield/Willowbrae community council, added: “It is ridiculous that we should consider knocking down a large sporting complex when it is still highly operational and viable. Money should be spent on Meadowbank to bring its equipment and facilities up to a good appropriate standard.”

Margaret Moffett, secretary of Leith Links community council, was one of the first to object to the plans to replace Meadowbank with flats. She said: “The council has to change its policy. This is an ideal chance for the new administration to correct a mistake and by doing so retain Meadowbank as a sports site for future generations.”

Campaigners highlight £30 million “black hole” and disagreement with the chair

Campaigners today gave their reaction to Terry Christie’s report about sports facilities in Edinburgh. They highlighted the £30 million “black hole” in the council’s current plans and the fact that most of the working group – including a majority of councillors – disagreed with the chairman’s view on refurbishment.

“This report does not reflect the view of our campaign, or indeed the view of the working group itself. It is a personal report by the chairman,” said Save Meadowbank spokesman Bill Walker. “It was also produced with undue haste in order to be heard at this month’s council meeting. The working group was given inadequate time to fully consider and comment on the report prior to publication.

“We all agreed that Meadowbank is the preferred site for the council’s main dry sports arena. But the majority of the group did not agree with key conclusions and recommendations. In particular the chairman’s view on refurbishment was shared by only 5 of the group. 12 disagreed with him. We were surprised to discover that a council-convened committee can deliver a report that reflects such a minority view.

“We were pleased to find that a majority of councillors on the working group favoured refurbishment. This example of cross-party support should be applauded. We want to work with these parties to deliver sports facilities that are modern, fit for purpose and affordable.

“The working group has found a very significant “black hole” in the current plans. Even with the sale of Meadowbank, City Park and Leith Waterworld, they are still short of £30 million. The original plan was overly ambitious and needs to be scaled back to affordable levels.

“In our opinion council officials have not fully considered all options. We call on councillors to listen to the clear majority of the working group and consider all options before making a final decision.”

Politicians of all parties have been invited to attend a public meeting at Meadowbank Stadium on Friday 17 August at 19:00 BST. Edinburgh Council is expected to make a decision about Meadowbank when it meets the following week.