Council Asked to Find Solution for Rugby Club’s New Home

By Jane Cruickshank / November 10, 2021
Rugby Club sign

STONEHAVEN’S community councillors voted last night to oppose Mackie Academy FP Rugby Club’s bid for an asset transfer of Forest Park – then vented their frustration at Aberdeenshire Council saying it lacked strategic planning and asked them to come up with a solution to the club’s plight.

There was a large online gathering joining those present in person for the meeting of Stonehaven and District Community Council, held in the former courthouse.

Peter Webster spoke on behalf of the Save our Park Campaign. He described the efforts made to inform those living in the area of the proposed asset transfer – posting flyers, using social media, hosting a public meeting in the Scout hut and contacting Aberdeenshire Council and our MSPs.

He said he spoke also on behalf of the 1165 people who had signed their petition – many from the five housing estates nearest the park.

”Covid, lock down and indeed this Asset Transfer application have been a rude awakening of what an asset the park is to our local community,”he said. ”We need safe, easily accessible spaces for our community.”

”Rather than ripping up this park, more should actually be made of it. More trees, more seating areas, more activities for our younger, now the 3rd generation of park users.

”This is a valuable open space.”

Saying 150 trees would be lost, Mr Webster included the environmental impact in his detailed account of the objectors’ concerns.

He said: ”The rugby club needs to find a new site. Our council and councillors have powers available to them to change or reallocate land use or put pressure on our local landowners and developers.”

Fruitless quest by Rugby Club

Alan Venters spoke on behalf of the rugby club which, with 1200 members including 375 youngsters, is the second largest in Scotland.

Mr Venters described the FPs’ quest over several years to secure land from various developers, including Cala who once hoped to build at Braehead. The club also tried to buy land close to Fetteresso Cementery, but were outbid by Aberdeenshire Council who wanted it for a cemetery expansion.

”We have used the land at Forest Park since the mid 1980s,” he said. ”We think it is a safe option for children to reach.”

Describing the process behind an asset transfer, Mr Venters said the club would have 20 days to respond to comments made during the consultation before the land would be independently valued.

And, if the transfer were to go ahead, he said the club will invest £600,000 improving the poorly drained ground at Forest Park and creating the necessary changing rooms, clubhouse, fitness suite, storage and parking – all of which he said would be made available to community groups and members of the community.

Devilishly irritating predicament

It was quite clear our community councillors were unhappy to face a situation where, whatever the outcome, a sector of the community would lose out. Alistair Lawrie described the predicament as ‘devilishly irritating’.

Jim Stephen said: ”It boils down to what is the council doing to help?”

”You can see the frustration from everyone,” he added.

Mr Stephen then questioned the role of the latest local development plan, LDP, which is scheduled for adoption in 2022.

Cllr Sarah Dickinson said: ”When it came up at the full council, I asked that it included a statement about the rugby club. That statement recognises the need for premises.

”What there isn’t, is a recognised piece of land.”

Cllr Dennis Robertson said the four ward Councillors could take all points raised to the area manager – but the community councillors were not satisfied.

Mike Duncan said he had raised concerns during the early about the amenity imbalance in Stonehaven during the early consultations for the LDP.

”There is a lack of vision or strategy for the town. Why is the LDP not taking account of the growing community and its amenities? Where is the strategy?”

And with Paddy Coffield proposing the community council object to the asset transfer, Mike Duncan added a second motion that, ”the Council should come back with an improved solution.”