Another reprieve, but no certainty.

Edinburgh Council today agreed to an SNP/Lib Dem motion to proceed with a full refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool and to call for a further assessment of the options for Meadowbank.

While the Council Chief Executive’s extremely flawed report (see our response) recommended that “some land [at Meadowbank] will need to be released for disposal to allow the Royal Commonwealth Pool [upgrade] project to proceed”, the SNP/ Lib Dem motion at least implies a commitment to attempt to find a solution that does not involve any sell-off.

The most significant advance from today’s meeting was that the interests of Scotland’s world-leading cycling community have been placed firmly back on the agenda. Councillors were recommended by officials to vote to allow the sale of some land at Meadowbank, but were not informed that officials intended to sacrifice the velodrome.

David Hoy, father of Olympic medalist Chris, highlighted the country’s cycling successes and warned the council they would be jeopardising Scotland’s chances of medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games if they decided to remove the Meadowbank velodrome.

“Forty years ago the Council made a courageous and forward looking decision to build the velodrome. Since then we have produced three generations of riders. Edinburgh is renowned for the quality of riders we produce at Meadowbank. If you take away our track we will lose some if not all of these new talents.

“It takes eight years of dedicated training to produce a world level athlete. We need to support those already riding at Meadowbank or we will not have medal winners in our home Games. Give us the facilities and we will give you the athletes.”

Well done to everyone who bombarded councillors with emails etc, and visited them in person.

Craigentinny/ Duddingston’s Lib Dem Cllr Gary Peacock deserves a special mention: he had the courage to stand up for his constituents by speaking and voting against his own party’s position, pointing out, “It is simply unacceptable to the people of East Edinburgh that land at Meadowbank needs to be sold to pay for the Royal Commonwealth Pool… Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.”

Peacock voted first for a Green Party amendment which clearly noted that the RCP upgrade should not be funded by the sale of land at Meadowbank. Email: gary.peacock@edinburgh.gov.uk to show your appreciation.

There seems a greater appreciation among the Council that the RCP upgrade for the Commonwealth Games merits greater Scottish Government funding.

Indeed, Alyson Cameron of Trinity Community Council highlighted the official 2014 Commonwealth Games bid document which promised 100 per cent Scottish Executive funding for the RCP, noting, “It is ridiculous therefore the Council is sitting here today to consider the sale of a major part of Meadowbank to fund a project which the Scottish Government is already committed to fund.”

We need to keep the pressure up. Click this link to get involved.

News Release: Council calls for further assessment for Meadowbank

Edinburgh Council has today agreed to an SNP/Lib Dem motion to proceed with a full refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool and to call for a further assessment of the options for Meadowbank.

Labour and Conservative councillors said they would prefer to demolish Meadowbank and return to the previous administration’s plan for a new stadium at Sighthill. Meadowbank’s Lib Dem councillor Gary Peacock voted against his own party, preferring instead to back a Green Group amendment.

Said councillor Peacock: “There can be no doubt how strong people feel on this issue. It is simply unacceptable to the people of East Edinburgh that land at Meadowbank needs to be sold to pay for the Royal Commonwealth Pool.

“£4 million funding from SportScotland is inadequate. It is unacceptable for Glasgow to get 80 per cent funding for the Commonwealth Games yet Edinburgh is expected to spend so much itself for just the one event.

“I am concerned at a vague motion that could give officials carte blanche to come up with proposals. I could go along with selling part of the land on the east of the Meadowbank site. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. That is why I am campaigning so much on this issue.”

The debate was centred on party politics with rival councillors taking pot shots at each other. SNP leader Steve Cardownie took much of this for his previous role as sports leader when he was part of the Labour Group. He responded by attacking his former colleagues. And he urged campaigners to “watch this space when it comes to the UK general election and what prospective Labour candidates say”.

Lib Dem leader Jenny Dawe proposed the successful motion. “We have to be pragmatic,” she said. “We have to ask why Labour allowed sports facilities to be neglected for so many years.

“We are committed to getting a report on refurbishing Meadowbank without impacting on the Royal Commonwealth Pool. We will continue to push the case for further government funding.

“Today we are committing to get underway with the Commonwealth Pool refurbishment and to do the best we can at Meadowbank. This is the best we can do given our financial limitations. The easiest thing to do would be to build at Sighthill but we won’t be doing that.”

Labour’s Paul Godzig criticised the new administration. He said: “This is a classic fudge to kick it into the long grass for a few months while they beg for more money. We have to look at what we can deliver. It is my belief that it is achievable to refurbish the Commonwealth Pool and build at Sighthill within the available funding.” And he took a swipe at people who think differently by accusing the Council of “being driven by those with narrow, parochial, self-interest.”

Tory Iain Whyte said: “There is a solution that is achievable and affordable. We will need to sell off part of Meadowbank. We had a proposal the whole council supported in 2004 to proceed with new sports facilities at Sighthill and refurbish the Commonwealth Pool. That is all achievable. Labour had a fudge in April because they took fright with an election coming up. We are suggesting we go back to the proposal for Sighthill.”

Alison Johnstone of the Greens said she was “very impressed” with the SNP/Lib Dem motion but wanted it amended to say only “non-sports land” would be sold. She added: “I welcome the determination shown by this administration to retain Meadowbank.”

Councillors had earlier been presented with a report from chief executive Tom Aitchison and heard deputations from several organisations who were united in their plea for Meadowbank to be retained. Speakers queried the accuracy of the report and were scathing about the way it made no mention of the loss of cycling facilities.

Alyson Cameron of Trinity Community Council highlighted the 2014 Commonwealth Games bid document which promised 100 per cent Scottish Executive funding for the Royal Commonwealth Pool. She said “This is part of a bid document to which nearly two million Scots have signalled their support, and supported by every political party. It is a clear, very public and long-standing commitment.

“It is ridiculous therefore the Council is sitting here today to consider the sale of a major part of Meadowbank to fund a project which the Scottish Government is already committed to fund.”

David Hoy, father of Olympic medallist Chris, highlighted the country’s cycling successes and warned the council they would be jeopardising Scotland’s chances of medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games if they decided to remove the Meadowbank velodrome.

“Forty years ago the Council made a courageous and forward looking decision to build the velodrome. Since then we have produced three generations of riders. Edinburgh is renowned for the quality of riders we produce at Meadowbank. If you take away our track we will lose some if not all of these new talents.

“It takes eight years of dedicated training to produce a world level athlete. We need to support those already riding at Meadowbank or we will not have medal winners in our home Games. Give us the facilities and we will give you the athletes.”

Allister Watson, elected director of Scottish Cycling, highlighted youth and community use. He asked why Edinburgh was expected to sell a popular facility to fund the Commonwealth Games bid when Glasgow wasn’t.

Former councillor and MSP Donald Gorrie spoke as president of Edinburgh and Corstorphine Athletic Clubs. “We accept there are funding problems but we don’t accept it is right to mix up Meadowbank with funding for the Commonwealth Pool. What the athletes want is for the council to look at what is wanted and how it can be provided on a phased basis.” He called on the council to lobby Parliament for funding.

Graham Lamont spoke for the Save Meadowbank campaign. He reminded councillors this is a big issue with many thousands of people continuing to back a popular campaign. After the meeting he gave a cautious welcome to the decision. “We want to continue to work with the council,” he said.

A full report will now be prepared and presented to councillors in March.

Council Report Recommends sell-off

The Full Council are due to meet on Thursday 20th Dec, and will discuss and determine the future of Meadowbank.

Councillors have been presented with a report produced by officials making recommendations that are normally the principle guide on which Councillors base their decisions. The report contains many inaccuracies, but much more significantly, a great deal of omission.

The report recommends that part of the Meadowbank site be sold off in order to help fund the RCP upgrade; it makes no mention of the fact that amongst other loses, the cycle track that has helped to produce an amazing array of Edinburgh-born medal-winners is to be sacrificed in the sell-off.

For more info, download this PDF file.

For details of how to help prevent this sell-off, go to the Dear Councillor page.

Meadowbank land sale not an option – Press Release

Campaigners today called on Edinburgh Council not to commit to the sale of land at Meadowbank in order to fund the stadium’s refurbishment.

Councillors will today receive a report from chief executive Tom Aitchison that asks them to consider two options, one for refurbishment and another for a complete re-build, both of which involve the sale of much of the site for housing and the complete loss of cycling facilities.

“Council officials have come up with plans that are out of line with requirements of users and the legitimate concerns of residents,” said Save Meadowbank campaigner Kevin Connor.

“Both options demonstate a lack of commitment to sport that flies in the face of all the pro-sport rhetoric surrounding Scotland’s successful Commonwealth Games bid.

“How seriously do we take any aspiration of success in these Games, and the 2012 Olympics, if we reduce the provision of training facilities for our current and future athletes?

“Even at its present size Meadowbank is often unable to meet demand. It is no coincidence that the Edinburgh area has produced many of the world’s top cyclists. Edinburgh’s own Chris Hoy, who was honoured last night at the City Chambers, has made it clear that the Meadowbank velodrome was vital to his success.

“The new Council has inherited a financial mess but it would still be a mistake for them to follow the old culture of selling off assets. Just as the Council sets budgets for the likes of transport and education, it must also make long-term plans and set aside an appropriate amount for sport. Such investment will pay health and social dividends that should not be underestimated.

“Any sell-off of Meadowbank would be scandalous.”

Edinburgh Council will consider the report when it meets on Thursday 20 December 2007.

Save the Whole of Meadowbank; not just a third!

While today’s Evening News front page would have us believe that the Save Meadowbank Campaign must be ready to pack up and retire, yet again, SMC’s response has been quoted out of context.

The Save Meadowbank campaign does not welcome any move to sell off any part of the Meadowbank site for housing. The Council seem determined to reduce the level of facilities, including getting rid of the velodrome. SMC is not.

Scotland will have little chance of combating obesity and other health and fitness problems if we continue to sell-off what little of our public land currently dedicated to sports use.

Edinburgh Council is putting on a reception at the City Chambers tonight in honour of Chris Hoy, Edinburgh’s own world-leading cyclist. Chris might be right to question the Council’s true attitude towards him. If they had true respect for him and his sport (one of the very few sports in which Scotland leads the world), they would not be casually planning the sell-off of the velodrome that was key to his and others’ success.

Yes the Council has financial worries. But the Meadowbank issue is not one they discovered last week. Proper budgeting is required over a period of years to ensure that rather than reduce the level of sports provision in Edinburgh, we increase it.

If Scotland’s capital city can afford £600m+ for one tram line, can we not afford at least to maintain and aspire to increase the provision of sports facilities over time? If not, then it is clear we have our priorities wrong.

“Edinburgh is a beautiful and prosperous city and one of the best places to live in the UK.” (Edinburgh Council) The Council should either revise that statement or revise their policy on sport.