Members of the pre-application forum of Aberdeen City Council met on Thursday (18th August) to discuss the proposed application by AFC for a Sports Campus, Football Academy and Stadium at Kingsford. Planning officers from Aberdeen City Council and representatives from AFC including Stewart Milne (SM) and George Yuill (GY) were in attendance. The lead architect for the club, David Halliday and planning consultant, Michael Halliday also sat round the table to answer questions on the proposal.
I went along to listen to the proceedings. There was a good turn-out of Westhill residents in the public benches and sitting listening to the City councillors, it hit home just how democratically unrepresented the residents of one of the settlements most impacted by this proposal are going to be when final decisions are being made. Nevertheless, it is important that residents are kept up to date as the application progresses and that written representations for and against are made at the formal consultation stage. I also mention later the pre-application hearing which is another opportunity for those who lodge an official objection/letter of support to address City councillors before the application is determined.
Below are my own notes from the meeting which I hope will be of interest. The official Minutes will no doubt be available from Aberdeen City Council.
The recommendations for the Forum were to:
- Note the key issues identified (see report attached);
- if necessary seek clarification on any particular matters; and
- identify relevant issues which they would like the applicants to consider and address in any future application.
Stewart Milne kicked off discussions by telling City councillors that this proposal should be viewed in the context of the City Deal and that it was a vital project for AFC. For the Community Trust, the deal would provide a stepchange in services available.
George Yuill then outlined the reasons why AFC needed to re-locate. Reasons put forward included that the existing stadium does not meet UEFA criteria, at the moment they have to shuttle top class athletes across the city to other training locations and that the three year old Community Trust needs to move forward.
Some background information on the recent consultation events was outlined. The Westhill events attracted 700 interested parties, the Kingswells one, 300 and the Pittodrie event, some 140, making a total of 1140 attendees. Friday 26th August is the deadline for comments to be presented to AFC at this informal stage.
Issues raised from the public consultations include transport, noise and light pollution, loss of greenbelt, people management, travel to and from the site and parking within the local residential area.
Members of the Forum and the public benches were advised that the next steps would include a public Feedback Event, the date of which would be announced in due course.
The lead planning officer, Garfield Prentice then outlined the potential economic benefits of a new stadium (AFC stated they expect annual spend to rise from £12m to £20m) to be weighed against the potential loss of revenue to the City. Garfield stated that the earliest date an application can be technically lodged would be 20th September.
City councillors on the Forum were then given the opportunity to ask questions/make comment to the applicants. I have listed them in note form as I heard them along with answers when given.
Cllr 1 – raised concerns about the site being “sinking” for years and flooding issues, visual aspect, light pollution, loss of economic benefit which the City enjoys at the moment including shoppers who travel with family members going to the game.
GY’s response re negative impact on city centre spend – detail not worked through yet but fans will still spend in city.
Cllr 2 – traffic, environment a major concern. Site being landfill is a sensitive issue. Community Trust has a major social aspect. At Loirston it was mooted to have the stadium lit in red at night.
AFC reassured Cllr that Kingsford would not be a “red light district”.
Cllr 3 – will the new stadium have similar facilities i.e. food, refreshments etc throughout the whole stadium? – answer Yes.
Cllr 4 – with the out of town location, he was concerned about the extra cost to fans re travelling.
SM replied this would be taken on board; public transport very much part of the detail; and tied in with the price of the match ticket.
Cllr 5 – will the stadium have sedum roofs, living walls etc to blend in with environment?
AFC response – that would add to cost and maintenance.
Will it have underground heating?
AFC – we are not at that stage of detail yet.
Will you consider biomass?
AFC – heating likely to be gas.
Cllr 6 – commented that Loirston was greenbelt but allocated in previous LDP. Assume there will be a landscape strategy to mitigate the loss of amenity. Could Kingsford be classed as prime agricultural land?
Planner’s response – not necessarily “prime” but could still perform an agricultural function.
Cllr 7 – what else will be there apart from football? Can there be other sports facilitated there? Multi sports arena?
SM response – this would change the whole nature of the stadium and would have cost implications and require a larger structure.
Cllr 8 – commended AFC for their community engagement but asked if they were engaging with community councils affected by increase in traffic e.g. Craigiebuckler, Seafield etc.
SM responded – yes, we want to take the City with us.
Cllr 9 – Loirston failed to deliver – why? Where does the 58% of fans come from (referring to previous comments about percentage of fans outwith Aberdeen city).
SM – it will be shown in the travel plan where fans travel from. The reality is Kingsford is the best location.
Cllr 10 – responded to sinking landfill site – not the case – it is insert waste. Test bores done on site, SEPA involved. There are technical solutions for dealing with these issues.
Cllr 11 – this is the 3rd AFC application she has been involved in. She approved of Loirston and asked if Kingsford could have a tennis academy as proposed at Bellfield.
SM – no room at Kingsford but could be considered in a second phase.
Cllr 12 – raised issues about the three access points into the site, and the amount of traffic crossing over a dual carriageway. How do they cross? What happens to the footpath/cycle path?
SM – detailed work still to be done but the access point to the extreme west of the site would be for emergency and away supporters only with a dedicated get-out area to clear within 20 minutes of the game ending. The middle access would be the main access and the east access being the coach exit. All to be agreed in conjunction with Police Scotland.
Cllr 12 – can football deliver a family friendly atmosphere?
GY – the drunken rowdy image of the standard football fan does not belong to this area or indeed century. The lack of facilities at Pittodrie cannot deliver a family friendly atmosphere – the new stadium can, with a whole match experience.
Cllr 13 – questioned why stadium was limited to the size proprosed?
SM – because of cost.
Will there be an opportunity for expansion in the future –
SM – possibly.
Will service buses be used to transport fans?
The chair then went through some procedural matters e.g. the application will be an “EIA application” (requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment) because of the scale and being on greenbelt and likely to require a pre-determination hearing which will allow anyone who makes a formal representation to speak directly to councillors before determination by full council.
SM rounded up the proceedings by saying that all issues raised today had been addressed by the Loirston application successfully and emphasised how important the stadium was to the City of Aberdeen adding that if the new stadium did not go ahead, there might not be an AFC in years to come.