Full Council Meeting, Dec 20th 2007
City of Edinburgh Council 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 (due by March 13th meeting).
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.
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.”
Rally to Save Meadowbank, March 10th 2008
Once again, Save Meadowbank were invited to participate in the Council-run workshop set up to produce the report that would inform the Council decision to be taken on March 13th.
In the event, any hopes that the Council would show any genuine attempt to find a solution that did not involve sell-off and downsizing of Meadowbank were quickly dashed. Neither was their any focus on the sporting needs of the athletes or ordinary users who would be most affected by the recommendations of the report.
When SMC realised that the workshop process was a sham, we felt that the only way to inform the Council decision was to once again facilitate public involvement.
Unfortunately, the popularity of Meadowbank meant that even with over a month’s notice, we were unable to book a hall to hold a public meeting there. Fortunately we were able to book the nearby Holyrood Abbey Church which has a capacity of over 400 people.
On Monday March 10th, the church was filled to capacity with worshippers of Meadowbank. Like our previous meetings, the public anger was combined with arguments that the invited politicians had no rational response to.
Deputy Council Leader, Steve Cardownie, and local MSP Kenny MacAskil were both made clear that, regardless of the Council’s financial difficulties, the public who had elected them EXPECTED them to ensure that Meadowbank should be upgraded in its entirety, and that none of the land should be sold off. The Council seemed able to easily fund schemes that the public opposed; they should make a special effort for projects that the public support.
Council Decision to Downsize and Sell off Meadowbank, March 13th 2008
Against the clear interests of the public that had elected them, the Council agreed to sell-off ‘part’ of the Meadowbank site in order to fund a smaller centre on what remains.
Their decision was informed by the report produced ostensibly by the workshops held over the previous 3 months. In reality, that report had not come out of those workshops: Save Meadowbank architect Dimitris Theodossopoulos, and senior athletics coach, Bill Walker had both been on the workshops, but neither of them had seen any of the material contained within the report until it was published.
The report included two indicative diagrams of the size and location of any future centre, and of course the area that is to become a housing scheme: one shows a third of the land lost to luxury flats; the other shows a half. Which one will prove more prophetic.
What was clear though is that the Council has decided to sacrifice the Meadowbank Velodrome that has produced a disproportionate number of Scotland’s and Edinburgh’s top athletes. Cyclists had never been invited to the workshops, but now that the decision has been made, the Council has prommised to ‘consult’ them over their needs. (see Cycling Weekly article)
Even the Conservatives noted the report’s lack of provision “of outdoor all weather sports [5-a-side football] pitches and facilities for martial arts and gymnastics” before they voted it through regardless. They chose to ignore the loss of a ‘throws area’ however, and dismissed the concerns raised over the inappropriate/ impossible proposal to move the athletics track from its current position. One of the diagrams shows the running track in a position that would require rerouting the train tracks in order to fit it in!
These latter concerns were raised to the Council meeting by Bill Walker; who felt the need to make his case in person as both his and Dimitris’ input had been entirely omitted from the report.
So, Edinburgh’s only ‘Sports’ centre is to be downsized and surrounded by flats. Athletics involves running, jumping, and throwing: Not at Meadowbank! Without a throws area, it’s kind of dangerous to throw a javelin.
Five-a-side footballers will have to play in the car park, the poll vault will have to done on the flag poles, martial artists will be kicking themselves, and gymnasts will have to take a run and jump.
Edinburgh deserves better: Meadowbank should be upgraded in its entirety; not sold off and downsized. The fight continues.