Sport Scotland invites bids for funding – September 2003
In September 2003, SportScotland (an unelected quango) invited local authorities to bid for funding as part of its National and Regional Sports Facilities programme.
Edinburgh Council decides to sell-off Meadowbank – October 2004
In October 2004 City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) agreed its bid for funding from Sport Scotland. The finalised bid noted a shortfall in funding for their proposed development of new and upgraded sports facilities.
As part of the solution to this shortfall CEC, without any public consultation whatsoever, decided to sell off the best-used and best-loved sports facility in Edinburgh.
Meadowbank Development Brief – December 2006 – March 2007
A public ‘consultation’ exercise was initiated in December of 2006, to gain public input on CEC proposals to turn the Meadowbank site into an area of high-density private housing, with the possibility of a comparatively tiny community leisure centre on site.
Save Meadowbank Campaign
Concerned sports groups and residents began leafleting outside the stadium to inform other users of the impending demolition, as the vast majority of the public were still unaware of any intention to sell off the centre.
The overwhelming response was one of shock and anger that CEC could even consider such a proposal and the campaign to save Meadowbank began in earnest with the aim of reversing the sell-off plan and ensuring all the facilities on the site were refurbished to modern standards.
Public meeting, 17th March 2007
Over 600 attended a hastily organised public meeting at the sports centre to voice their unanimous opposition to the sell-off of Meadowbank. Faced with such opposition, ex-council leader Donald Anderson conceded that the plan is “still open” to debate.
Working Group set up to re-examine the Meadowbank issue
After receiving thousands of petitions and formal objections sent in by the public, CEC set up a working group to re-examine the future of Meadowbank. However the supposedly ‘independent chairman’ was carefully selected by the Council. He drafted a ‘working group report’ in favour of the plan to sell the stadium, despite the fact that the vast majority of the group disagreed with him. He was forced to present the final report as the Chairman’s report and concede that it did not reflect the views of the group.
Public meeting, 17th August 2007
The Save Meadowbank Campaign was compelled to organise another public meeting to give the public an accurate representation of the discussions of the working group. 400 turned out on a Friday night at the height of the festival to air their views and hear presentations.
Respected Lecturer in Architectural Technology, Dr Dimitris Theodossopoulos from Edinburgh university, put forward a realistic proposal of how the Meadowbank site could be refurbished at a significantly lower cost than that proposed by Council officials for a smaller new build stadium in Sighthill. Dr Dimitris had included a new covered Velodrome as part of his proposal.
Full Council meeting, 23rd August 2007
As a result of sustained pressure from the public, and lobbying from Green party Councillor Alison Johnstone, the Council passed a motion ordering Council officials to prepare a report on:
a) the proposals to refurbish and upgrade the existing facility at Meadowbank;
b) the feasibility of providing a new athletics track, 2,000 capacity seated stadium and associated sports facilities also at Meadowbank; and
c) all funding options and possibilities in respect of a) and b) above.
Report on Refurbishment proposals
After inviting SMC to help inform their report, Council officials then adopted an entirely negative approach to the refurbishment option and SMC’s input. It appeared as though they were so attached to their original Sighthill ‘vision’ that they adopted the uncooperative approach of a spoilt child that had just been told off.
Inaccurate one-sided information was leaked to the media by high-ranking Council officials before any real analysis had been performed. Even the Council’s own experts were embarrassed by these officials’ lack of professionalism.
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.
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 was 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.
However, Downsize and sell-off were the only options, and SMC concerns were ignored and would later be omitted from the report.
A 400+ capacity venue (we had to use Holyrood Abbey Church as Meadowbank was booked up over a month in advance) was filled to the brim with angry articulate opponents of the Council’s plans.
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.
But did it inform their decision?
Council Decision to Downsize and Sell off Meadowbank, March 13th
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.
The size of the ‘part’ to be sold off can be gauged from two indicative diagrams put to the council: one shows a third of the land lost to luxury flats; the other shows a half. Which one will prove more prophetic?
Proposals include the loss of the following facilities:
Track location inappropriate
5-a-saide football pitches
Athletics ‘Throws’ Area
SMC had participated in the workshops that produced the report recommending the above, but our input had been ignored in the workshops and entirely omitted from the report.
The fight continues…