Gavin Corbett: Boroughmuir bar will add to drink issues

As the dad of an S1 school pupil here in Edinburgh, I know how large high school looms in lives of young people. So I also know how excited the Boroughmuir High School community is about the new school being built at Fountainbridge for 2016.

And therefore I also know how dismayed parents and staff are about the prospect of a student bar opening right next to the new school site.

The matter came to public attention on Monday when the licensing board heard an application for a seven-day alcohol licence from 11am to 10pm, from Napier University, which runs the 700-bed student complex just off Gibson Terrace and the Union Canal.

The new bar was originally earmarked for general purpose community use in the planning consent.

There was even talk, at one stage, of Fountainbridge library moving to the building. However, after the decision to relocate Boroughmuir High School to Fountainbridge was taken, in June 2012, the planning use was changed, in 2013, to allow the building to be used as cafe-bar.

So why the fuss?

Fountainbridge is already on the licensing board’s radar as an “area of serious, special concern” in relation to the existing number of places where alcohol is sold. That means extra scrutiny of the case for any new licence. In my view, there are very significant arguments against plonking a student bar right next to a school.

First of all, the bar really is right next door – literally separated only by the width of a footpath.

Secondly, the venue is open access and the intended customer base includes unaccompanied 16 and 17-year-olds. While they will not be able to buy alcohol, of course, that still does mean a big overlap with the age group attending the school.

Thirdly, the hours of alcohol sale, from 11am, coincide with much of the school day.

So if we are serious about facing up to the deep-seated alcohol problem in Scotland, then it needs to start with our young people. We owe it to them to make the right long-term decisions.

Now, as it happens, I think Napier University, as a respected city institution, also understands that and I’m sure it will reflect on a better business plan which provides a place for students to relax and socialise without foisting an all-day drinking venue next to a school.

• Gavin Corbett is Green councillor for the Fountainbridge-Craiglockhart ward