Arboretum pavilion work gets green light

An artist's impression of the revamped pavilion
An artist's impression of the revamped pavilion
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PLANS to transform a landmark sports pavilion have been given the go-ahead in a move hailed as a “win-win” for schools and clubs across the Capital.

Bosses at Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools said £500,000 would be pumped into revamping the “eyesore” building at Arboretum Road in the north of the city after education leaders approved their bid to take over management of the surrounding playing fields in a 60-year deal.

They said sports clubs and schools would benefit from brand new changing and events facilities.

Jonathan Molloy, bursar at Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools, said: “It’s a tremendous opportunity for us –
a win-win on all sides.

“The pavilion has just been sitting locked and boarded up, and there have been issues with vandalism and rough sleeping there. This is a great regeneration story.”

Under the new leasing arrangement, management of the Arboretum Road playing fields and pavilion will pass from Edinburgh Leisure to Erskine Stewart’s Melville,
with charges for use pegged at the current council rate.

The revamp will also see a group of temporary cabins – hired by the council at a cost of £10,000 per annum – replaced by changing facilities in the pavilion. Vandals torched the pavilion in 2003, prompting city chiefs to draft in portable cabins with changing rooms and showers which were also wrecked in 2008.

St Thomas of Aquin’s RC High School, Trinity High School, Inverleith Rugby Club and Holy Cross Cricket Club all use the playing fields.

Mr Molloy said: “The partnership agreement we’ve signed protects usage of the fields by local clubs and schools – and the great benefit for residents will be removal of an eyesore pavilion and bringing the grounds up to a higher standard. Originally, the pavilion had two changing rooms and a residential flat upstairs, and then latterly it was a youth club.

“Our plan is for it to be converted into four changing rooms on the ground floor and then a public room for cricket teas and other sports functions.”

He admitted allowing an independent school to take over management of what was a publicly-owned facility would be greeted with suspicion
by some but insisted current levels of access would be maintained.

“We’ve been running a public access sports centre at Mary Erskine School since 2000, so we have a good track record in running public-private partnerships,” he said.

The deal has been hailed by city education chiefs.

Councillor Paul Godzik,
education leader, said: “This positive partnership will ensure the community receives a continued benefit from the facility for many years to come.”

Revised rugby club plans slated

REVISED plans for a major revamp of Scotland’s oldest rugby club have been mauled by critics.

The ambitious revamp of the historic Edinburgh Academicals’ ground will go back out for public consultation today as backers of the overhaul predicted a final decision would be made in July.

Updated artist’s impressions from Michael Laird Architects show boutique-style outlets fronting a tree-lined Comely Bank Road.

Minor landscaping and aesthetic alterations to the redevelopment of the club’s Raeburn Place home have been made, with natural stone used on the facade and improved glazing for retail units at either end of the main building. A museum and new club facilities, including functions rooms, would also form part of the major upgrade.

But the scale of the proposed transformation has not been reduced into a 5000-spectator stadium, which has furthered anger outspoken campaigners.

Almost 3370 signatures have been collected in opposition to the controversial plans, with campaign group Save Stockbridge formed last year to fight the proposal.

Save Stockbridge chairman Bruce Thompson described the changes to plans as “purely artificial”.

He said less than 200 spectators had gone to each of the past half dozen Accies home games, adding: “We think it’s far too big and unnecessary.”

Campaigner and Stockbridge resident James Mclean, who lives opposite the proposed development, said: “The retail facilities would provide enough space for two supermarkets and a Krispy Kreme. This would put huge strain on roads and nearby junctions, which are already seriously congested, but for some reason a full traffic assessment was not carried out.

“This is totally contrary to the guidance issued by Transport Scotland and contrary to the Edinburgh Local Plan.

“I then questioned how professional developers could neglect to carry out such a vital traffic assessment, which is required to establish the effect of the proposed retail development on Stockbridge businesses and the wider community.”

The club has previously claimed the only way to provide the proper facilities and guarantee the club’s long-term future is to generate income from retail development.

The proposed 1780 square metre retail space equates to the size of roughly two small Co-operative supermarkets.

Accies executive chairman Frank Spratt said: “From the beginning of the project, our aim has always been to create ‘premier sporting facilities’. We appreciate it is a team effort and engaging with the community is part of the process.

“The changes will only go towards making one of the country’s ‘coolest’ communities even ‘cooler’ and we are more than happy to support these improvements.”

The proposal was first mooted last year, with the club forced to use portable cabins as changing rooms after previous plans for a new clubhouse fell through three years ago.

The heritage museum, which would celebrate 150 years of rugby on the site, has been championed by former greats Rowan Shepherd and John Allan.

The ground is where the first-ever rugby international was played – between Scotland and England in 1871.