Stonehaven park visit before decision made on ownership

Councillors will visit a much-loved Stonehaven park before deciding if they should hand it over to a local rugby club.

Mackie Academy Rugby Football Club is looking to take ownership of Forest Park.
Mackie Academy Rugby Football Club is looking to take ownership of Forest Park.

Mackie Academy Rugby Football Club is looking to take ownership of the town’s Forest Park from Aberdeenshire Council.

The club applied for a community asset transfer (CAT) for the land at Forest Drive last year.

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Bosses want to create two pitches to Scottish Rugby Union competition standard on the park grounds. They also want to build a training area, changing rooms, a fitness suite, clubhouse and storage facilities on the site.

Hamish’s Play Park, which sits on one corner of the park, would not be included in the sale.

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Until recently Mackie RFC used two pitches at Redcloak but the lease on one has terminated and the other is due to end in 2026.

Council officers had recommended the CAT be approved with a purchase price of just £1.

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The proposal was discussed by the Kincardine and Mearns area committee back in June but councillors refused it the following month after carrying out a site visit.

Now the local authority’s business services committee will have the final say on the matter.

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The committee met last week to discuss the CAT application.

Rugby club president Neil Foster and vice president Alan Venters told councillors that they have been looking for a suitable new home for the club for more than 15 years.

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Mr Venters said that the proposal would allow players to develop their skills and give them “facilities they can be proud of”.

But David McDonald from the Save Forest Drive Park group also attended to voice the concerns of local residents.

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The campaign group was launched by locals in a bid to stop the development taking place. They also created a petition against the plan which amassed 1,165 signatures.

He said the park was “very safe” for children and “a vital asset” for users of all ages and abilities due to its level nature and path network.

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Mr McDonald added: “We wish to make it abundantly clear that in a town whose community spirit is visibly very strong, we absolutely support the rugby club. It is the location that is just so totally inappropriate here.”

He argued that restricting the open recreational space to make way for the rugby club would be a “desperate price for the community to pay”.

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Councillor Seamus Logan suggested the committee visit the park to get a better understanding of the rugby club’s plans: “I do feel that it’s a very important decision and the more we inform ourselves the better.”

His motion was backed by councillor Gwyneth Petrie.

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She said a site visit would be “wise” as it would help those committee members who are not familiar with the area.

Cllr Petrie added: “The objections raised are purely around location, use and car parking. Until I see that location and we’ve got that experience I don’t feel comfortable making that decision.”

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Meanwhile councillor Wendy Agnew said that she supported the rugby club but believed its proposal was “just in the wrong place”.

Committee members unanimously agreed to visit the park before making a decision.

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The matter is expected to return to the business services committee in January for final determination.

If the asset transfer is successful the rugby club will then need to apply for planning permission to build on the site.