ABERDEENSHIRE Council today announced that the authority is set to close a controversial deal to sell off a Royal Burgh’s main recreational park, gifted to the townspeople a century ago by a leading member of the Scottish aristocracy.
Ten years ago councillors were accused of entering into a “secret deal” with supermarket giant Tesco to sell off the Common Good Land at Canal Park in Banff after the council set up a working party to look at the possible disposal of the land.
Canal Park has been used for recreational purposes by generations of local residents since the land was first bequeathed to the people of the county town and neighbouring Macduff in 1906 by the Duke of Fife, then the owner of nearby Duff House.
The park is home to the town’s only tennis club, and its football pitches, which are regularly used by two amateur clubs, Deveronside and Banff Rovers, as well as the youth development team for former Highland League champions, Deveronvale.
Four years ago Aberdeenshire Council announced £10million plans to create a Better Life centre at Banff, as well as a new community centre and sports facilities for local residents, through the potential sale of the land to Tesco who want to build a new store at the site to replace its current supermarket in Banff’s town centre.
And today the council confirmed that, after “more than a decade of deliberation and discussion,” a deal to sell the land to Tesco was finally nearing completion.
Councillor Jim Gifford, the leader of Aberdeenshire Council, said: “We have no intention of walking away from our commitment to people in Banff and Macduff to provide excellent and appropriate facilities for sport and recreation.
“The discussions and negotiations have admittedly been lengthy, and every effort has been made to resolve the complex issues surrounding a project of this scale.”
He added: “This is an exciting time and we are keen to see the work done so far translated into development on the ground – we are completely committed to seeing this project come to fruition.
“As such, we will immediately seek the views of local people, groups and organisations in both towns on what would best meet their needs and where, then expedite the process to deliver that to them.”
Colin McKenzie, the council’s chief executive, said the council was fully committed to ensuring new facilities are created to match the local communities’ needs.
Recreation and wellbeing
He said: “We know from speaking to the local community there is some doubt about this project ever happening, in any form. I can state unequivocally that this council remains fully committed to providing the best possible facilities to meet the current and future needs of Banff and Macduff.
“This should be an exciting time for local people – we are making firm plans and we want the towns to help shape them to meet their needs. We need the community to work with us and tell us what they want.”
A council spokesman said: “Mr Mackenzie has written to the Banff Princess Royal Trust to confirm the Tesco deal is nearing completion and the process to identify the most appropriate leisure and recreational facilities, and where, will begin with the local community.
“An engagement event is being arranged to allow all elements of the community to give their views on what they want to see. Tesco will also be invited to hear local aspirations as a partner in the project.”
The tract of land was originally gifted to the people of Banff and Macduff by the Duke of Fife on the understanding that the land would be “held and managed for the material advantage of the two towns and for the recreation and wellbeing of the community.”