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.