Hearts striker sets his sights on centre goal

HEARTS striker Calum Elliot has returned to his old school to boost a campaign for a community centre to be built on the site.

The buildings in Thorburn Road were used for many years as an annex to Bonaly Primary School but have stood empty since 2007 as pupils were moved to a new site at Bonaly Grove.

With the site about to go on the market for a third time, local people are desperate to secure part of it to build a community hall.

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The 22-year-old, who still lives in Colinton, gave his backing to the campaign during a visit to the site. He said: "I've got good memories from being at school here and I would be disappointed if it was just turned into flats because all my family have been to school here as well.

"It would be good for the community to have something in this area because they don't have anything like that around here."

When the council first tried to sell the site for housing in 2007, members of the Colinton Amenity Association hoped to raise 1 million to buy it and turn it into a community centre.

Their hopes were thwarted when the council accepted a 1.4m offer from Sundial Properties but the firm later pulled out. The site was marketed again last year but no acceptable bids were received, and it is now due to go back on the market for a third time.

Amenity Association members will campaign to be given part of the site, or for the developers to donate money to set up a community centre elsewhere.

Chairman Alex Stewart said: "Apart from two church halls, there are absolutely no community facilities for Colinton. There's a lot going on here but it's absolutely dependent on trying to rent space from churches and there simply isn't enough.

"I accept that having it within the building where people want to develop flats might be difficult, but it's a large enough site that they could offer another piece of land.

"What we're hoping for is some form of planning gain for the community, whether that came from the council giving land, or money from the developer."

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Colinton/Fairmilehead councillor Jason Rust, who is backing the campaign, said: "I am absolutely delighted to have Calum's support. The possibility of a community buy-out is not on the cards any more but it is important that the local community get something in return from the sale to a private developer.

"Clearly the council will wish to maximise the capital receipt, and that is perfectly understandable given the financial position the council finds itself in, but it is vital that some form of planning gain is received by the local community.

"We have a desperate need for community facilities in Colinton and this site in the heart of the village, accessible to all, is ideal. The council need to have a long-term approach and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for local residents to get something back."