September 1, 2008

School to Sport Top Facilities Following GBP 4m ‘Masterplan’

By Gareth Edwards

A NEW multi-million pound sports centre is set to be created in the grounds of a city school.

Plans for the GBP 4 million Grassmarket Sports Centre, which will be part of George Heriot's School, have been recommended for approval by council officials.

The school says the project, which will include a fitness suite, classroom, changing rooms and a games hall, is needed to bring its sports facilities up to date.

The proposed site for the new centre, at the back of the school grounds on Lauriston Place, is currently occupied by a building which George Heriot's recently bought from the Edinburgh College of Art.

Headmaster Alistair Hector said he hoped the new facility would prove to be both a huge benefit to the school and a popular resource for the local community.

"The sports centre is one of the first parts of the school masterplan which we wanted to bring in, as our existing sports facilities date back quite some way, and it was agreed that we needed a more modern facility to teach physical education to our students," he said.

"So it will be primarily a teaching resource, but we are also keen for it to be available to the wider community.

"Most schools with modern gym facilities find they are in demand and, given its location close to the Grassmarket, we would expect this to be no different."

He added: "We are very excited about these plans. I think the design of the building has great merit and will be a super addition to our school."

Under the plans, the current building on the site would be demolished to make way for the sports centre.

If the plans are approved, it is hoped that work can begin as early as next spring.

George Heriot's is one of the oldest private schools in Scotland. It teaches around 1600 students each year, from primary school age right up until pupils leave at the age of 18.

Former pupils include Scotland international rugby player Andy Irvine and the new facilities are designed to help ensure the school remains committed to sport.

The development is part of a wide-ranging masterplan for the site, which also includes a covered walkway running from the school's Greyfriar's Building to the sports centre.

There are also future plans to create a new swimming pool alongside the centre, as the school's current pool is not suitable for teaching competitive swimming.

Yvonne Holton, of heritage group the Cockburn Association, said the plans had its full support.

"The scheme will provide a great benefit to both the school and the wider community," she said.

"The buildings have been sympathetically designed to sit well within the constrained site and they will enhance the setting of this section of the Old Town Conservation Area."

Members of the council's planning committee are expected to approve the application when they meet on Wednesday.

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