Rugby club's plan for Stonehaven park refused
Mackie Academy Rugby Football Club applied for a community asset transfer (CAT) in a bid to take over the land at Forest Drive from Aberdeenshire Council for just £1.
Club bosses revealed their ambition to build two pitches to Scottish Rugby Union competition standards on the park site.
They also hoped to create a training area, changing rooms, fitness suite, clubhouse and storage facilities.
The Forest Park CAT saga has been ongoing since last summer.
Members of the Kincardine and Mearns area committee initially discussed the plan back in June but refused it the following month after visiting the site.
But, as it had been recommended for approval by council chiefs, the proposal was sent to the business services committee for further consideration.
Members of the committee previously debated the transfer in November but deferred their decision until they too could carry out a site visit.
The final determination was made by the committee last week.
Stonehaven and Lower Deeside councillor Sarah Dickinson moved a motion to refuse the transfer and retain the park as a “green lung” of Stonehaven.
She said: “I recognise that there are community benefits however those are outweighed by the impact on social wellbeing to the community and on environmental wellbeing.
“I also oppose on the basis that there is strong opposition to this request and I think that would lead to a loss of community cohesion, which would do lasting damage in our community.”
Her motion was backed by fellow ward member councillor Wendy Agnew who said closing off the park would cause an “entirely unacceptable unjustified social disadvantage to the neighbourhood community”.
Meanwhile Westhill and District councillor Ron McKail said that the transfer would take away a number of perks which local residents currently enjoy by having unrestricted access to Forest Park.
He added: “It’s not rocket science to acknowledge that if we agree this transfer these benefits will be affected detrimentally and, from the local residents’ perspective, will have an impact on their daily lives.”
Local campaigners took to social media to celebrate the refusal of the CAT.
Members of the Save Forest Drive Park group thanked those who supported their cause and said they wanted to focus on the future of the park.
They also hoped the rugby club would “accept that this route is closed”.
In a Facebook post the group said: “We hope that councillors, landowners, businesses and community groups can now all come together to find the right land to develop additional recreation grounds for rugby and other sports.
“It is clear that using existing public parks and green space is not the solution as that has a huge negative impact on existing communities.”
The rugby club could appeal to Aberdeenshire Council’s review body to consider the decision taken by the committee.
Review body members would have the power to uphold the refusal or overturn it meaning the rugby club’s plans could still go ahead.
However if the decision is upheld the club could lodge an appeal with the Scottish Government.