The proposed development of a parade of shops and a 2,500-seat stand on the Raeburn Place playing fields, which lie within a conservation area and the Edinburgh World Heritage Site, continues to cause great concern in the city.
There has been substantial strong opposition from traders, residents and others opposed to building on playing fields, the loss of open space and the compromising of views from Comely Bank and Inverleith Park. Very surprisingly, councillors voted for approval, but planning consent has not yet been granted; a number of hurdles remain and commencement of the project in its present form is by no means certain.
The project appears to have been driven by individuals whose primary concern is the Edinburgh Academical Football Club, a private rugby club, a majority of whose members are not former pupils and, therefore, whose links to the Edinburgh Academy are tenuous.
The ground is the sole asset of the Edinburgh Academicals Club, which exists to further the interests of the academy and its bond with former pupils. The club is to be asked at an extraordinary general meeting tomorrow to hand control of the ground to a new foundation, whose objectives appear not to be the interests of the academy, but the promotion of rugby. This proposal is being opposed by senior members of the club and it is by no means certain that it will be approved.
To my own knowledge, the Raeburn Place ground has been mismanaged over many years and the predicament in which the rugby football club now finds itself is of its own making. The community has suffered severely as a result and is now subject to a major threat, the scale of which has been clearly articulated by the community council, the Cockburn Association and others. By contrast, the adjacent Grange Cricket Club thrives.
The promoters of the current project have consistently declined to engage with neighbouring owners, the community and others to explore alternative ways of securing the future of the ground for rugby and other sports: everybody supports the continuation of rugby and other sports at Raeburn Place, but not by the means proposed. Unfortunately, if the development goes forward, it will be associated in many minds with the Edinburgh Academicals and it will be the reputation of the Accies and of the Edinburgh Academy itself that will suffer.
I urge the Edinburgh Academicals Club not to hand control of its sole asset to others in the manner proposed, and the developers, even at this late stage, to engage with the community and others to find a better way forward.
Dr James Simpson