Edinburgh Leisure HQ plan for Meadowbank was never scrutinised or approved by Councillors

Edinburgh Leisure’s suggestion that its HQ be built on land currently occupied by dozens of trees, some of which are extremely rare, was never scrutinised or approved by Councillors, according to documents released under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Edinburgh Council was asked to provide all reports, documents and correspondence relating to the decision to headquarter Edinburgh Leisure on the site currently occupied by Meadowbank Stadium. Its response confirmed the idea was suggested by Edinburgh Leisure within a business case (which was not included within the response) after which they met with Edinburgh Council’s Finance department who produced an eight line spreadsheet. Edinburgh Council holds no other document from this meeting. No communication on the subject is held by the Council and the only report that mentions the HQ facility is a report to the Finance Committee in October 2018.

Edinburgh Council approved on 29 June 2018 the plan to build headquarter facilities for Edinburgh Leisure at Meadowbank.

“This means Edinburgh Council approved a suggestion from a private company that involved destroying rare trees and replacing them with office space without even one single piece of correspondence on the subject and without the suggestion being scrutinised or voted upon by any Councillor,” said Save Meadowbank spokesperson Heather Peacock.

“And the Council’s Finance department justified it based upon an eight line spreadsheet with no note, minute or any other document ever being produced or retained.

“Dozens of healthy, mature trees – some of which are extremely rare – will now be killed for the sake of this Edinburgh Leisure vanity project which will deliver a far smaller sports facility which loses over 40% of the facilities plus 97% of the spectator capacity.

“The Save Meadowbank campaign calls for a full investigation into how officials within Edinburgh Council acted in failing to bring this suggestion to the attention of Councillors for scrutiny and a decision.”


Meadowbank tree massacre shows Edinburgh Council ‘has not acted in good faith’

Edinburgh Council’s decision to begin the felling of dozens of trees and demolish with minimal advance warning the iconic Meadowbank grandstand has been criticised by campaigners who have also accused Edinburgh Council of not acting in good faith.

“We are in on-going discussions with senior Council officials regarding the plans for Meadowbank, specifically about saving the iconic grandstand and the hugely popular landscaped area which contains some extremely rare trees,” explained Save Meadowbank spokesperson Heather Peacock.

“We have also asked repeatedly to see a copy of the project plan and be kept informed of key decisions, including any demolition or felling of trees.

“On Friday evening we were blind copied into a standard e-mail that suddenly announced the trees would be killed and the grandstand removed the next working day.

“That is simply not acceptable and not what would we would expect given the on-going discussions about saving both the trees and the grandstand.

“Edinburgh Council has clearly not been acting in good faith and its officials simply cannot be trusted.

“The e-mail also mentioned arranging a public meeting but only after the felling and demolition has taken place. This is typical of how Edinburgh Council has acted throughout the entire Meadowbank Stadium debacle and is contrary to the assurances the campaign was given following the planning meeting on 29 June when we were assured lessons would be learned about how best to obtain public good faith in the entire process.

“The tree cull at Meadowbank will make the equally controversial destruction in Princes Street Gardens, when over fifty mature trees were removed in October to allow a footpath to be built, look small scale in comparison.

“This time Edinburgh Council has allowed a private company – Edinburgh Leisure – to steamroller all over it for the sake of its own vanity project which will deliver a far smaller sports facility with the loss of over 40% of the facilities plus 97% of the spectator capacity.”

Campaigners have been backed by the Council’s own forestry service team who referred to this as “an outrageous act” in the response it provided to Councillors as part of the planning application process.

An unnamed Council forestry official wrote: “I object to the proposed tree removals as part of the Meadowbank stadium development.

“There should have been intention at the beginning of the design stage to retain and incorporate these trees into any new site design. The recommendation to remove a total of 13 Wheatley’s would mean the loss of approximately 6% of the total mature Wheatley elm stock in the city, this considered along with the fact that the global population is now estimated to be in the mere hundreds highlights what an outrageous act it would be to remove any of these trees.”

Last chance to wave goodbye to Meadowbank

Monday morning is the final chance to wave goodbye to one of Scotland’s most successful sporting venues.

Although Edinburgh Council has made no official announcement, an internal e-mail from a senior official has revealed the Council plans to start demolishing the Meadowbank Stadium grandstand on Monday 14 January 2019. This will be followed by the felling of dozens of trees to make way for a smaller sports centre.

“When Cockenzie power station was demolished advance notice was given and people turned out in their thousands to watch from miles around,” said Save Meadowbank spokesperson Heather Peacock.

“Compare that with the actions of Edinburgh Council, who want to knock down Meadowbank Stadium on the quiet without letting people know their plans in advance.

“Meadowbank Stadium was much loved by the hundreds of thousands who used it each year.

“Word has now got out about the Council’s secret plan to start the demolition with people planning to be at the site to watch from 07:00 on Monday morning.

“This is one last chance for the public to wave goodbye to a sporting institution, either by joining in at the site or as they pass on their way to work.

“The Save Meadowbank campaign group will continue to press for a suitable sports facility on the entire Meadowbank site. But this is a day to reflect on the end of an iconic venue. It also marks the end of Edinburgh’s sporting ambition with the proposed new sports centre lacking over 40% of the existing facilities and 97% of the spectator capacity.

“It is the beginning of the end for Edinburgh City Football Club who have been left high and dry by Edinburgh Council as the club will not be able to play SPFL matches in a ground that is due to have a capacity of just 499.

“It also ends interscholastic competitions, firework displays, outdoor concerts and other such events at Meadowbank.

“And it breaches planning conditions for the proposed smaller replacement facility because it was agreed no work could start on any part of the site until a masterplan had been prepared and approved by the planning authority.”

Campaigners will be available for a photocall outside Meadowbank Stadium at 07:00 on Monday 14 January 2019.

Edinburgh Council refuses to reveal Meadowbank advertising revenue

Edinburgh Council has refused to reveal how much it is receiving from the controversial advertising hoardings it has erected around the Meadowbank Stadium site.

In a response to a Freedom of Information request, the Council confirmed it had placed 140 posters around the site but refused to reveal the monthly revenue on the grounds of “commercial interests and the economy”.

“This is typical of how Edinburgh Council is trying to hide from its citizens what is happening on the Meadowbank Stadium site,” said Save Meadowbank Campaign spokesperson Heather Peacock.

“The Council has a massive black hole in its plans to build a replacement facility which they don’t want to talk about.

“Now we discover we aren’t even allowed to know how much revenue is coming from advertising hoardings the Council has put around the site.

“Many of the posters are free publicity for events on Council land so they are obviously embarrassed at the very low income stream this is generating, especially compared with the loss of revenue following the closure one year ago of its most popular sports facility which attracted over half a million visitors each year.

Plan exists for Meadowbank Stadium site to become industrial estate, according to Council Senior Planning Officer

Plan exists for Meadowbank Stadium site to become industrial estate, according to Council Senior Planning Officer

Edinburgh Council has admitted a plan exists to turn the Meadowbank Stadium site into an industrial estate.

The revelation came in a report prepared by Senior Planning Officer Val Malone in which she rejected a complaint about advertising hoardings that now surround the site because they are permitted around land “which is designated in any development plan for the time being in force primarily for commercial, industrial or business purposes”.

Save Meadowbank Campaign spokesperson Heather Peacock provided this reaction: “This is a sports and leisure site and should remain so.

“On 29 June Edinburgh Council agreed all plans for the site were off the table and they would start again with a blank canvas. Nothing would take place until a full consultation took place and a master plan had been approved for the entire site.

“Yet without waiting for that the Council’s own planning department has admitted a plan exists for the site to be used mainly for commercial, industrial or business purposes.

“This is simply unacceptable and yet another example of how this Council cannot be trusted.

“We repeat our call for all work to stop on the site until the public consultation is complete and a masterplan prepared, as agreed by the Council back in June.”

Olympic cyclist criticises Council recycling policy

Olympic Gold medallist Callum Skinner has slated Edinburgh Council’s failure to recycle wood from the Meadowbank velodrome which campaigners say has been left to rot in a corner the site.

The Edinburgh-born athlete, who honed his skills alongside Chris Hoy on the famous Meadowbank cycling track, last week told Deadline News he had created a table from wood he had salvaged from the site.

The Edinburgh-born athlete, who honed his skills alongside Chris Hoy on the famous Meadowbank cycling track, last week told Deadline News he had created a table from wood he had salvaged from the site.

He said: “Meadowbank Velodrome deserved better than being hastily and quietly demolished without letting the local cycling community save some of this historic track.

“Despite one third of the track being demolished before anyone could gain access I’m glad that following my visit many more came to take more of the track that’s so special to us all.”

Save Meadowbank campaign spokesperson Heather Peacock congratulated the cycling superstar on his initiative and agreed with his criticism of what Edinburgh Council did with the wood.

She said: “The wood for Meadowbank’s velodrome was specially sourced and should have been recycled. It is exotic hardwood worth thousands of pounds. Edinburgh Council could easily have asked salvage dealers to bid for the wood and ploughed the proceeds into local grassroots sports. That didn’t happen and what wood wasn’t taken from the site by Callum and his mates has been left to rot.

“This was a massive opportunity for Edinburgh Council to demonstrate its recycling credentials and let its citizens mourn the end of an era.

“Yet it did neither. The wood wasn’t recycled and people were given no warning the demolition was due to start.

“Meadowbank’s velodrome was one of the most successful venues in the history of Scottish sport. It produced more world champions that Hampden and Murrayfield combined yet Edinburgh Council demolished it on the fly. Compare that to the demolition of Cockenzie Power Station which was watched by thousands.

“Edinburgh Council should be ashamed at the way it acted.

“Now the site has been cleared it is a perfect location for a replacement velodrome for the thousands of people from Scotland’s capital who wish to use it.

“Build it now and have it open by 2020 which is when the Council has promised a new Meadowbank sports centre will be in place.”

Packed meeting calls for Council to consider alternative Meadowbank plan

Over one hundred people packed into Meadowbank Church last night to call on Edinburgh Council to consider an alternative plan for the Meadowbank Stadium site.

The Council intends to build a smaller sports centre with a vastly reduced capacity on half the Meadowbank site with hundreds of flats and commercial properties on the rest.

The meeting heard many concerns about this plan and ended with a call for Edinburgh Council to consider an alternative vision put forward by the Save Meadowbank Campaign group.

“There needs to be a phased refurbishment instead of a plan that will destroy much of what Meadowbank stands for,” said Save Meadowbank campaigner Heather Peacock.

“The first thing should be to retain and renovate the Stadium element of the existing design. This should be followed by a sports community and leisure hub with a new fitness course and a replacement velodrome on the site of the original facility.

“There can still be mixed development on what land that remains.

“What we suggest would improve access and retain trees. It also makes financial sense because it will generate income as each section is developed.

“Risk will be mitigated by developing in stages. The cost can be met from existing funding plus other sources the Council has failed to consider such as the Scottish National Investment Bank, sports grants, sports clubs and sponsorship including naming rights. Funding is available if only Edinburgh Council is prepared to look for it.

“We call on Edinburgh Council to consider other options instead of pushing ahead with its hugely controversial and costly plan.”