TWO women who run their own soft-play centres fear they will be driven out of business if plans for a rival attraction go ahead at the former Leith Waterworld.
Imogen Douglas, who runs Maddie and Mark’s Play Town at Ocean Terminal, and Julie Joyal, of Clown Around in Restalrig Road, claim Edinburgh already has plenty of soft-play venues.
And they say the city council should have thought twice before agreeing to a big new soft-play centre which they believe will ruin their community-based businesses.
Councillors last month controversially voted to abandon efforts in conjunction with a community group to reopen Leith Waterworld as a leisure pool and instead decided to sell the premises to Glasgow-based A&G Property Group for £1 million to house a “state-of-the-art” soft-play centre.
Ms Douglas, 41, who launched Play Town last September, said: “When I heard on the radio that the biggest soft-play centre in Scotland was going to open at Leith Waterworld I nearly crashed the car.
“Edinburgh is pretty much inundated with soft play. And this will be right between us and Clown Around.
“We’re mums that set up our own businesses, we’ve worked really hard to keep going through the recession.
“Who looked at these plans and thought is this a good idea, to put a big new soft-play area slap bang between two existing family-run businesses? It’s really disappointing – you have exiting community-based businesses and they decide to plonk this right on the doorstep. If this takes off here, it will easily take out our businesses.“
Ms Joyal, 45, who has been running Clown Around for ten years, also fears for the future. “It’s going to totally impact on our business. I don’t understand why there has been no consultation from the council. There’s a soft-play centre just been given the go-ahead at the old snooker hall in Musselburgh, Edinburgh Leisure wants to change the indoor bowls place at Portobello into soft play and there’s myself and Imogen. That’s five of us almost next-door to each other. I don’t see how they feel there is room for all these soft plays.” But city culture and sport convener Richard Lewis says the two existing soft-play centres are different to the Waterworld proposal.
“The advice we have been given from officials is there is an increase in demand. Soft play is seen very much as a growth area”. A&G Property Group declined to comment.
LEITH Waterworld closed its doors in January last year, but its sale was delayed to allow a community bid to be put together.
Campaign group Splashback had its first offer rejected, but the council agreed to help it develop its plans.
Then last month, city chiefs accepted a £1 million bid from A&G Property to turn it into a soft play centre.