Teams face hard times as park’s flooded pitches are unplayable

SPORTS clubs in the Capital have hit out after they were barred from using a flagship Edinburgh park for months because of record rainfall and inadequate drainage.

Bosses at Edinburgh Leisure admitted “unplayable” pitches in Inverleith Park will be closed until the summer, with rugby and cricket teams moved to alternative venues while drainage and flooding problems are fixed. It also emerged that Inverleith Park is among 14 council-owned sites across the city where drainage assessments are being carried out, with 75 per cent of public park bookings cancelled in December because of water damage.

Andy Bernard, vice president of Edinburgh Northern Rugby Football Club, whose members play in Inverleith Park, said: “We’re very disappointed – this is a blow for us.”

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He said his players were “pragmatic” about the situation but admitted ongoing access problems could harm Edinburgh Northern’s long-term viability.

“We’ve been lucky in that we’ve been able to play over the road at Broughton High School, but clearly we would rather be at Inverleith Park,” he said. “Playing there is absolutely vital for us.”

Pam Barnes, chair of Friends of Inverleith Park, described the situation as “dire” and said: “This is a real shame for the clubs that play there. I’m sure experts will work out exactly what’s wrong but these things are very expensive and Inverleith Park is not the only place with these problems.”

As speculation mounted that the cost of repairing drainage at Inverleith could top £50,000, local councillors said staging big events there would have to be reconsidered.

Councillor Nigel Bagshaw, Green member for Inverleith, said: “The high water table resulting from months and months of rain has made the problem worse, as have the large-scale events held there involving the use of heavy machinery which has severely compacted the ground.

“We need to look into the impact and frequency of these events and consider alternative venues to ensure that the park can still be used for the vast number of activities which people enjoy there.”

Rhys Williams, 38, coach at Broughton Rugby Football Club, which uses Wardie Park, said the situation showed maintenance and drainage were “not good enough”.

He said: “There has been water at one end of the park since June or July. It’s a massive issue for us and there’s concern it will become a recurring one. If you miss six or seven home games, that has a huge impact. Two seasons and your club would struggle to survive.”

But the closures and booking cancellations were defended by sports bosses, who said they were necessary to ensure the long-term health of Edinburgh’s parks. An Edinburgh Leisure spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately, 2012 saw some of the heaviest rainfall on record across the country and, as a result, a higher than normal number of pitches were made unplayable.”

A city council spokeswoman said: “A number of parks have always been more at risk of flooding than others, largely due to their historic form, the age and quality of their drainage, and the type of soils present.”