Archers target bomb shelter for new centre

Share this article

IT started life in the 18th century as a storeroom for beer barrels, and was last used as a safe haven for hundreds of city residents fleeing bombing raids during the Second World War.

But now an abandoned basement in the bowels of Edinburgh University's Pleasance sports complex is set to be revamped into a centre of excellence for archery as part of 5 million expansion plans.

University chiefs are drawing up plans to refit the Pleasance Sports Centre, including proposals for a three-storey extension at the rear of the sports facility complex.

The Pleasance site dates back to the 1700s when the Bells Brewery was established just outside the city walls to avoid burgh taxes.

The brewery closed in 1935 and the site was bought by Edinburgh University's former rector and major benefactor Sir Donald Pollock.

Shortly afterwards, the building's 600-square-metre basement, which had been used to store beer barrels, was converted to an air-raid shelter for people from neighbouring Dumbiedykes.

It has since been untouched for over 60 years, but it is now hoped it can be brought back to life.

Jim Aitken, Edinburgh University's director of sport and exercise, said the expansion plans were at the early stages.

He said: "We have a great mix of members at the Pleasance, with students and established residents from the local community.

"The university is the fourth best in the UK for sport, and that is reflected in our facilities. But the problem we have is capacity. We have been a victim of our own success, and we are looking to expand what we can offer.

"There is land at the rear of the site that could be used for expansion but we also have the disused air-raid shelter.

"It is a perfect space for our archery teams, and would tick all the boxes for international standard competition.

"But there is a lot of work to make the basement compliant with today's health and safety standards."

The Pleasance has 12,200 members, with around 20 per cent of them non-students.

Plans being drawn up for a three-storey extension would be at the rear of the Pleasance complex towards Dumbiedykes. Among the facilities being considered are more gym space, and an aerobic dance studio that would have views of Arthur's Seat.

If all the money can be found for the project then it is hoped that full plans will be submitted to the council in the summer of 2008, with work commencing the following year.

The redevelopment of the sports centre is part of a 50m regeneration project for university land in and around Holyrood Road, which was unveiled earlier this year.

This includes creating around 40 "affordable" homes between Viewcraig Gardens and the Pleasance sports complex in a joint venture between the council and the university.

Local Tory Councillor Cameron Rose said: "We would welcome the upgrade of the sports facilities but the crucial thing is the effect on those neighbouring the site.

"There is already a lot of development planned for around the Pleasance area and how this fits in with that is crucial.

"Overall, though, an upgraded sports centre should benefit both long-term residents and the students alike."

Work on a new climbing wall at the Pleasance complex is expected to get under way next month with the facility opening early next year.