City sets up public showdown to decide on skatepark site
CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a skatepark at a city beauty spot are to be considered at a special public hearing, council leaders said today.
The one-day hearing into the plans for Inverleith Park has been ordered after the council was bombarded with more than 2500 representations on the plans.
Around 1500 of them are believed to back the idea of turning a former pitch-and-putt course into the 500,000 skatepark, which has been in the planning stages for around five years.
The council rarely holds a public hearing in advance of a planning application being ruled upon, and both opponents and supporters of the initiative will be allowed to be represented on the day.
However, the scale of opposition to the skatepark, as well as the council's involvement in it, means the Scottish Executive may still order a full public inquiry into the scheme.
It is understood the council's planning officials will recommend the skatepark is approved, despite fears the peace and tranquility of Inverleith Park would be ruined by the venture.
The two sides today vowed to press their cases before the councillors, insisting they had strong arguments to present.
Fiona Houston, spokeswoman for the Save Inverleith Park campaign, said: "The councillors on the planning committee need to bear in mind that they are the long-term custodians of Inverleith Park and it is their duty to preserve it as green-space. It shouldn't be altered so dramatically for short-term political gain, which is what will happen if this goes ahead."
Joe Tree, of the Edinburgh Skatepark Project, said: "The main thing for us is that the number of people supporting the skatepark outnumbers the number of those objecting.
"As time has gone on, we've seen the amount of opposition grow and we've worked very hard to ensure that we build support for the project at the same time.
"We're obviously very hopeful that the plans finally go through this time, bearing in mind everything that's gone before."
Stockbridge councillor Michael Dixon, who performed a U-turn after initially supporting the scheme, said:
"It's a pretty rare move and I'd urge the committee to treat the planning application as very much a local issue and look at the impact it will have on the local community.
"Inverleith Park is clearly not the location for an international-standard skatepark and the council really needs to go back to the drawing board and look at locations alongside existing facilities like Meadowbank Stadium."
A council spokeswoman said: "
Rather than the committee simply discussing the planning application amongst themselves, as normally happens, various speakers will be invited to attend and address the committee.
"The committee can then accept the application, decline it or seek further information. If the application is approved it will then go on to the Scottish Ministers for approval."
The meeting is at the City Chambers on November 22.
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