Sign the Scottish Parliament e-petition against the sell-off

Sign the e-petition to the Scottish Parliament that calls for adequate funding of sports facilities such as Meadowbank…

Edinburgh Council proposes to radically downsize Meadowbank Sports Centre and sell-off around 40% of the current site to housing developers. Find out more…

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MP SAYS COUNCIL SALE OF MEADOWBANK “JEWEL” IS WRONG

Gavin Strang says the plan to sell Meadowbank for housing is wrong and that the Council should recognise the hugely popular facility “for the jewel that it is.”

He made his comments in his current mailshot to constituents. The Edinburgh East MP wrote: “The campaign to save Meadowbank has successfully halted the Council’s plan to sell it of to a developer and use the money thus raised to build new facilities at Sighthill.

“Despite that victory for common sense, nothing less than the retention of the whole site for recreation is acceptable. Moreover, the operating facilities should be given a much needed upgrade by the Council as soon as money becomes available.

“The latest Council policy of selling off part of the site for housing is wrong and needs to be resisted with the same intensity as led to the victory over the first proposal.

“Meadowbank is a tremendous asset not just for East Edinburgh but for the city as a whole.

“We are lucky that Meadowbank is close to the city centre. It is time the Council recognised it for the jewel that it is.”

Save Meadowbank spokesman Kevin Connor said: “We welcome this continued support from the local MP and urge people to sign the petition to ask the Scottish Government to provide the money to fund Meadowbank’s refurbishment.”

The petition to ask the Scottish Parliament to provide funding for national sports facility such as that at Meadowbank is available through the http://www.savemeadowbank.org website or directly at http://epetitions.scottish.parliament.uk/view_petition.asp?PetitionID=260.

Sign the Scottish Parliament e-petition against the sell-off

Sign the e-petition to the Scottish Parliament that calls for adequate funding of sports facilities such as Meadowbank…

Edinburgh Council proposes to radically downsize Meadowbank Sports Centre and sell-off around 40% of the current site to housing developers. Find out more…

Government urged to provide cash for its sporting rhetoric

An online petition has been launched to urge the Scottish Government to match its rhetoric about sport with hard cash.

The petition, from Chris Gallacher on behalf of the Save Meadowbank Campaign, calls on the Scottish Government to explain how its commitment to promote sport and healthy living – and leave a lasting legacy from the 2014 Commonwealth Games – can be delivered when local authorities say they are having to close facilities due to lack of funding.

It asks the Government to engage with local authorities and provide adequate funding to ensure facilities are not diminished through, for example, their sale for private housing.

The petition quotes a pre-election circular from Justice Minister (and constituency MSP covering the Meadowbank area) Kenny MacAskill who criticised the previous Labour administration, stating “what we need is more public facilities not less”. Yet now Mr. MacAskill supports the current plan to demolish Meadowbank, which will significantly reduce facilities, and build housing on much of the site.

The Scottish Government has also gone back on a pledge it made to provide Edinburgh Council with £28.8 million of funds to upgrade the Royal Commonwealth Pool. Now they will provide only £5 million, and may give a smaller contribution towards the cost of refurbishing Meadowbank.

Mr Gallacher lodged his petition when the City of Edinburgh Council, which is now run by an SNP/Lib Dem coalition, decided in March this year to demolish Meadowbank Stadium and replace it with a scaled-down sports centre that doesn’t include many of its current facilities. The Council has justified its decision on financial grounds, saying it doesn’t have money to refurbish the existing site or build a similarly-sized replacement.

Mr Gallacher said: “Even at its current size, Meadowbank is often unable to meet demand. To reduce its capacity will have predictable consequences for the number of medals won by Scottish-based athletes in 2012, 2014, and beyond. The health benefits of an active lifestyle are well documented and frequently promoted.

“How sincere is this government’s commitment? Many thousands of elite and ordinary sports enthusiasts, local and wider Edinburgh residents, and many others from throughout Scotland and far beyond have shown their opposition to any selling off and downsizing of Meadowbank.”

Save Meadowbank spokesman Kevin Connor said: “Edinburgh is Scotland ‘s capital city yet the Government says it is only prepared to give its Council a one-off payment of around £9 million to look after its two major international sports venues, Meadowbank and the Royal Commonwealth Pool. That is totally inadequate.

“National facilities require national funding. Edinburgh Council needs far more central Government support. But this isn’t just an Edinburgh issue. Other Councils have similar problems and I call upon people throughout Scotland to sign this petition to ask the Government to provide the money to match its rhetoric.’

Sign the petition at:
http://epetitions.scottish.parliament.uk/view_petition.asp?PetitionID=260

News Release: Another Meadowbank land deal uncovered – How many more are there, ask campaigners

Another Meadowbank land deal has been uncovered just days after Edinburgh Council was criticised by the Scottish Information Commissioner for its handling of a significant cut price land deal on the same site.

The Scottish Episcopal Church has confirmed it sold land to the Council in October last year. John Stuart, their General Secretary, told campaigners his organisation sold land to the Council “for full value, after having received independent valuation advice.”

He explained: “It recently came to light that the Scottish Episcopal Church owned a very small strip of land in the area. I understand from our solicitors that the area of ground in question represents part of the land formerly comprising Clockmill Road which as stopped up in 1968. The Church at that time owned some land bounded by the road and became owner of part of the road as a result of its stopping up.”

Save Meadowbank spokesman Kevin Connor commented: “This is the second time this week we have heard about the Council buying land at Meadowbank. How many more such deals are there?

“The previous deal, which was done under the previous Council administration and involved land being sold for just 1% of its market value, was criticised this week by the Scottish Information Commissioner. Now we find the current administration has also bought land on the same site. We call upon the Council to come clean and provide full detail of all deals it has done or is currently negotiating in connection with land at Meadowbank.”

News Release: “Surprised” Commissioner critcises Council about cut price Meadowbank land deal

The Scottish Information Commissioner has criticised the City of Edinburgh Council for its response to a Freedom of Information request about a recent cut price land deal at Meadowbank.

In his written ruling, Kevin Dunion has called on the Council to review its procedures and release further information. He also expressed his “surprise” at the lack of information the Council says it holds about a significant land purchase.

Said Mr Dunion: “I found that the Council was correct to withhold some documents that are publicly available in the Register of Sasines. However I also found that the Council was wrong to withhold two marketing reports.” The Council now has six weeks in order to provide these documents or risk being found in contempt of court.

His report details failings in how the Council processed a request for information from local resident Chris Gallacher. In addition to the information that was wrongly withheld, the Council ‘found’ information it originally said it did not hold only after repeated requests from the Commissioner. But it’s the lack of information relating to recent land deals at Meadowbank that drew greatest criticism from the Commissioner.

Two Council employees – who have since left – conducted negotiations themselves and kept no written record. The Council originally argued commercial confidentially as a reason for non disclosure before it finally admitted to the Commissioner what really happened.

Wrote Mr Dunion: “Mr Gallacher sought any information that the Council held relating to its purchase of 2.4 hectares of land in the Meadowbank area in 2005 for £100,000. In its responses, the Council advised Mr Gallacher that this land purchase was negotiated commercially and that it had no further information to add.

“Later, in communications with the Commissioner, the Council advised that the negotiations for the purchase were conducted orally, by the Council’s then Property Development Manager (who no longer works there) and that it held no record of any exchange of correspondence between the parties prior to missives.

“The Council submitted it had searched the email accounts and files of the Property Development Manager along with the files of a surveyor who had assisted him (and who had now also left the Council) and had found nothing relating to the transaction.

“When questioned further in order to understand why there would be no records prior to the missives, the Council explained that the purchase was carried out under delegated authority that permitted its Property Development Manager to purchase land (up to a cost of £100,000) for a specific project that had been budgeted for.

“Although the Commissioner is surprised that so little information was held by the Council in relation to a significant land purchase, he is satisfied following detailed investigation that the Council has now located all the material falling within the scope of Mr Gallacher’s request.

“However, the Commissioner is disappointed that the Council did not identify all relevant information when Mr Gallacher initially submitted his request. Additionally, he is concerned that the Council only located documents … after several requests from his Office. It is the Commissioner’s view that during its handling of Mr Gallacher’s request and the investigation by his Office, the Council repeatedly failed to conduct adequate searches. The delay in identifying relevant information had a significant impact on the time Mr Gallacher had to wait to receive additional information and a decision into this case.

“The Commissioner recommends that the Council review its procedures for handling information requests, and particularly for identifying relevant information, in the light of the failures identified in this case.”

Chris Gallacher welcomed these findings. He said: “I thank the Scottish Information Commissioner for his ruling but am very disappointed my Council withheld information and forced me to lodge a complaint.

“It now turns out the Council has NO documentation relating to the purchase three years ago of around 20% of the Meadowbank site. Today they expect £17 million from the proposed sale of around 40% of the site. Land that today is valued at around £8.5 million was sold three years ago for just £100,000, a fraction of its real worth.”

Save Meadowbank spokesman Kevin Connor said: “Aside from the obvious Council failings highlighted by the Commissioner, the main concern is the way Council officials refused legitimate requests for information about a cut price land deal on the Meadowbank Stadium site.

“The Council says it has no written record and the only two people who knew what went on have since gone. That’s a real pity as they managed to negotiate a deal over the phone to purchase land at 1% of its market value. It would be interesting to know how they did that, and if this is standard practice.”

News Release: Edinburgh Council can only provide two squash courts – and both of them are due to be demolished

Edinburgh Council can only provide two squash courts - and both of them are due to be demolished

A capital city needs to have a proper sport provision

Edinburgh Council currently has only two squash courts available to hire. And both of them are due to go when Meadowbank is demolished because squash is one of the many sports that will not be catered for in the small sports centre due to take its place.

Meadowbank Stadium is supposed to have six squash courts. But four of them are permanently out of action due to various cost and maintenance issues. The two that remain are very difficult to book, even more so since the Council’s other courts at Craiglockhart are now closed for up to a year.

Mark Wishart has been playing squash for two decades and is very frustrated at the situation. He lives round the corner from Meadowbank and would like to make more use of the centre but there simply aren’t enough courts available. He said: “The courts at Meadowbank have not been properly maintained. They have been allowed to run down to their present state of disrepair.

“When I asked what other Council courts are available I was directed to Craiglockhart but they told me their courts are now closed and are expected to remain so for at least one year.

“Two squash courts for a city the size of Edinburgh is simply ridiculous.”

Fellow player Mike Brown, from Wallyford, agreed. “A capital city needs to have a proper sport provision. I cannot believe Edinburgh Council has decided to do away with this and other sport facilities at what is obviously a very popular venue. If anything rather than reducing sport facilities they should be increasing them.”

Save Meadowbank spokesman Kevin Connor added: “Squash is not part of the Council’s plan for mini-Meadowbank. It’s one of many sports the Council has decided not to provide. Thousands of people disagree with this Council vision. We call on the Council to listen to what their citizens are telling them and retain the entire Meadowbank site for sports use.”