Last week, Edinburgh’s licensing board deferred a decision on a series of licences linked to the controversial Edinburgh Accies development in Raeburn Place.
The £8m development, which has already been granted planning permission by the Council, will include a 5,000 capacity stadium, a cinema, bars, restaurants and retail units when completed.
The licences sought would allow the on-sale of alcohol until 1am, extending to 3am during the Festival and Festive seasons. The Licensing Board decided to defer a decision until after a site visit to hear concerns.
The licences, and the scale of the development have prompted widespread local opposition and I share the concerns that have been raised by many in the community about the scale and appropriateness of the proposals.
During the planning process in late 2012, I lodged objections highlighting the disproportionate scale of the development in relation to the commercial elements which had been built in to the proposal to maximise income and the impact that this would have on residents and business. I was clear at the time that I did not object to the ambition of improving and modernising the sports facilities of the proposal but was worried about the potential traffic and adverse community impact that would result.
Many of these concerns have been brought into sharp focus by the licence applications – with residents worried about antisocial behaviour, noise disturbances and traffic chaos associated with the development. A number of premises in the development look set to offer on-street dining and drinking in close proximity to people’s homes. Then there are the problems associated with late night closing times with large numbers of people leaving venues at a time when there is no public transport. At times when the stadium hosts events, there are real concerns about the impact on transport and earlier this year the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman rebuked the Council for not ensuring a transport study was conducted.
I believe it is clear that the proposed licences would significantly impact on residents’ quality of life – all in an area which is already well served by restaurants and bars and which is now at risk of overprovision.
In Edinburgh, we do not have to look far to see comparisons with areas where residential communities living alongside the night time economy negatively impacts on people’s quality of life. In my time as an MSP, I’ve dealt with countless complaints from residents in the Grassmarket for example and those experiences should be properly considered before a final decision is taken. You can see my submission to the Licensing Board which highlights these issues here.
I have heard many residents express a view that they would be happy to support a smaller scale development. There is support for the ambition of Edinburgh Accies to develop the site to put themselves on a more secure financial footing but it is vital that the development is proportionate, and does not conflict with the neighbouring community.