City and Shire SDPA response to stadium proposal

The “Strategic Development Planning Authority” (SDPA) was designated by Scottish Ministers on 25 June 2008 under the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006. The Aberdeen City and Shire SDPA have 12 members with six being appointed by both Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils.

Their observations and policy conclusions on the AFC stadium proposal are documented below. Although the response has been online for some weeks, it was before SDPA members yesterday for noting. With so many documents online, it can be time-consuming to find the statutory consultee responses.

SDPA CONSULTATION RESPONSE

PLANNING PROPOSAL

Local planning authority: Aberdeen City Council

Proposal: Proposed Community and Sports Facilities, Football Academy, (comprising outdoor pitches, pavilion, ancillary buildings), Stadium (20,000 capacity), ancillary uses, formation of access roads, parking and associated landscaping and engineering works | Land At West Kingsford (North Of The A944 Road) Skene Road Aberdeen AB15 8QR

Reference No: 170021/DPP Date received: 16 January 2017

Case Officer: Garfield Prentice Target date: 27 February 2017

STRATEGIC PLANNING OBSERVATIONS

Context

An application for detailed planning permission has been submitted on behalf of Aberdeen Football Club. The application seeks approval for a football stadium and campus development on an unallocated site forming part of the Aberdeen City Greenbelt to the west of the AWPR junction between Kingswells and Westhill. The proposed development would comprise:

20,000 seater football stadium

  • A football academy
  • Training pitches
  • Car parking for 1,600 cars
  • Ancillary retail (merchandising and match day concessions)

The stadium capacity is similar in scale to the current stadium (Pittodrie) and that for a community stadium allocated at OP59 in Loirston in the Aberdeen Local Development Plan 2012 (and 2017) on which Aberdeen City Council were minded to grant consent until the application was withdrawn.

Strategic Development Plan

The Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Plan (SDP) was approved by Scottish Ministers on 28 March 2014, replacing the Aberdeen City and Shire Structure Plan (2009). The Aberdeen Local Development Plan (2017) was adopted on 20 January 2017. The development plan for Aberdeen City is therefore fully up-to-date. The plan is framed around a vision, spatial strategy and a series of aims and objectives; with those relating to economic growth, sustainable mixed communities, quality of environment and accessibility being the most relevant to this application. The SDP sets a strong framework for investment decisions. The purpose of the SDP is to focus the right development in the right places and to prevent inappropriate and poorly located development. The SDP is ambitious in its strategy for change, facilitating growth in focused places in order to deliver the significant and properly planned infrastructure required for this growth (SDP paras 3.5 and 3.9), while enhancing quality of life. In terms of the plan’s spatial strategy (p8- 23), the proposed stadium falls within the outer edge of the Aberdeen City “Strategic Growth

Area” (p12-14). The plan explicitly supports the principle of the development of “a new community stadium, a regionally important facility which will bring economic, social and cultural benefits” (para 3.24, Diagram – p13 and Schedule 2). Two possible locations are identified – on and around the current stadium site at Pittodrie / Kings Links and to the south of the city as part of the Loirston development.

It is recognised that the development proposal is attractive to and tries to meet the needs of the football community of the region. However, it is the principle of a new, single-purpose stadium (for football use and surrounded by ancillary football facilities), on an unallocated site, in the greenbelt which on the edge of the city that is the primary focus of this response.

Spatial Strategy

The SDP acknowledges the importance of Aberdeen City Centre as being vital to the economic future of the area (SDP para 3.21). The regeneration of the City Centre and a number of city communities is vital to reduce inequality (paras 3.47 and 3.48). A key facet of this is acknowledging that a varied mix of uses must be maintained and expanded in order to have a successful city which is attractive to business, residents and tourists. The importance of reducing travel distances and making walking, cycling and public transport more attractive is also highlighted as vital for the future (para 3.16). This again focuses attention on the City Centre or sites that are well connected to existing or planned communities.

Para 3.24 of the SDP details two possible locations for a Community Stadiums to support the growing sporting infrastructure of the city. This is further illustrated in the indicative diagram 5, p13. The careful consideration of the location of a community stadium was part of not only the SDP development process but the Aberdeen LDP. The SDP aims for the development of a Community Stadium which would facilitate more than one use on site and as such co-locate multiple uses at one facility that would be better connected to existing or proposed infrastructure than the single use and isolated proposed development. Specific sites have been allocated for this use within the spatial framework and to locate a stadium of this size and singular use on an unallocated site in the greenbelt, on the outer fringes of planned development corridors would be contrary to both the SDP and Aberdeen LDP. It is noted in the supporting Environmental Statement (ES) that the previously considered

Loirston and Bellfield Farm sites were located in areas designated as Greenbelt at the time of determination. However, this is misleading as the Loirston site was part of a new community coming through the Aberdeen Local Development Plan (2012) and Bellfield farm was considered under a specific policy in the 2001 Structure Plan relating to the SFA’s bid for Euro 2008. The policy context for the current application is therefore very different. It is also claimed that the AWPR would facilitate development at this location. The purpose of the AWPR is not to facilitate development rather alleviate traffic congestion in the greater Aberdeen area. A 20,000 plus capacity stadium on the periphery of Aberdeen City’s road network and public transportation routes is unlikely to make the best use of existing and planned transportation infrastructure. In a similar vein the ES states the stadium would be designed to the highest sustainability standards yet fails to mention given its location how heavily car dependent it would be, thus neutralising any gains made through greener technologies on site. The ES asserts the stadium would improve quality of life. Again this is debatable given the level of traffic that would be generated on match days and at peak commuting times placing increased pressure on the immediate area’s infrastructure. In addition to that it would only be accessible for pedestrians from Westhill given the AWPR forming a barrier to pedestrian and cyclist movement from Kingswells which is the only other adjacent neighbouring community.

Economic Growth

With regard to economic growth the SDP seeks to grow and diversify the economy. However, the applicant’s claim that the development of a football stadium at this location would help to provide a new range of employment that would also help to diversify the regional economy, moving it away from the oil and gas sector, is unfounded. The vast majority of job creation would be in construction, and therefore temporary. While additional employment is welcome, 30 jobs is difficult to class as a shift in employment base. It is also unclear from the supporting Economic Statement as to whether these jobs would be a net gain or a shift from the existing stadium at Pittodrie to the new stadium at Kingsford. However, no account appears to have been taken of either the fact that jobs will be transferring from one of the most economically disadvantaged parts of the City to a significantly more affluent one, or of pre and post-match revenue spent in the vicinity of Pittodrie or the wider city centre – with very limited opportunities for such expenditure in the vicinity of the application site. The issue of ‘Net Economic Benefit’ is covered in more detail below.

Sustainable Mixed Communities

It would appear that the proposal is for a football stadium rather than a community stadium as envisaged at the time of the preparation of the SDP (and previous structure plan) which identified potential stadium locations (SDP para 3.24) as a component of a broader mixed community. While it is recognised that there will be community access to some of the football facilities, the uses proposed are not integrated in a sustainable fashion into the community given the scale of the development and its proximity to established or planned developments.

Quality of the Environment

The Greenbelt around Aberdeen plays a vital role in protecting the character and landscape setting of the city and adjoining communities (para 4.31). Development of this site would remove the protection afforded by the designation and lead to coalescence between Westhill and Kingswells.

Accessibility

While the application sits on the edge of one of the plan’s ‘Strategic Growth Areas’, it is not within or adjacent to either the City Centre or other defined town or neighbourhood centres and has the potential to impact on the City Centre which is afforded significant protection within the plan. This issue will be considered in more detail below in terms of sequential site selection.

The objective of the SDP is to ensure all new development contributes towards reducing the need to travel by car and encourage walking, cycling and public transport – a target of the plan being that walking, cycling and public transport should be attractive options. This location will be a significant traffic generating use in a location only served by public transport between the City Centre and Westhill. It will have a limited residential walk-in catchment and would create further danger on the Aberdeen-west cycle route (with three entry points to the site), which needs to be further upgraded (although it is recognised that there are proposals to upgrade this).

The accompanying Transport Assessment (TA) proposes a number of measures to manage the potential traffic congestion such as overflow parking being accommodated within the Arnhall Business Park. However, it is difficult to see how the development could mitigate its impact in this location when (according to the TA) over 20% of supporters currently travel to the stadium on foot and this is likely to fall dramatically at the Kingsford site. If thousands of cars were to be parked at the nearby employment areas this would give rise to thousands of pedestrians trying to cross the A944 dual carriageway immediately before and after matches. The proposal would create a car dependant development in an area served by limited public transport and an almost non-existent walking catchment. As such it would not be in keeping with the objectives and targets of the SDP.

Scottish Planning Policy (SPP)

Uses that attract a significant number of visitors should generally be located in town and city centres and paragraphs 58 and 59 of SPP place a strong emphasis on the health and vibrancy of town centres, placing the right development in the right places. As such a town centre first approach is taken by the SDP and the Aberdeen LDP. A mix of uses is important in order to attract visitors and should be encouraged in order to have a variety of uses resulting in a more resilient centre. Furthermore the sequential town centre first approach of SPP para 68 would place developments which generate significant footfall firstly in established areas and require justification as to the lack of suitable locations for a similar development in these locations.

The supporting ES chapter 4 (as required in para 73 of SPP), discusses why the out-of-centreproposed location is considered acceptable. Analysis has been undertaken of alternative sites but restricted to those within the Aberdeen City Council boundary, despite the SDP explicitly seeing the ‘Community Stadium’ as a regional facility (SDP Schedule 2). Such an artificial restriction on potential sites in the sequential assessment is inappropriate. All allocated sites, those with previous permissions and possible alternatives have been discounted in the assessment. Multiple reasons have been given with a reoccurring issue being site size, due to the area required for the ancillary components of the proposal the applicant believes it is difficult to find a non-greenfield site within Aberdeen City with sufficient space. In the analysis of the Loirston site (15ha) it is claimed that there is insufficient space on site for training facilities when in fact the site (before the application was withdrawn) was minded to be granted consent by Aberdeen City Council for a stadium and training facilities. It has not been articulated sufficiently as to why such a scale of facilities is required and also the need for it to be co-located with a stadium. Redeveloping Pittodrie is viewed as in conflict with the existing residential use of the area even though the stadium has been in existence for over 100 years. Reasons against developing Kings Links are the loss of the golf course and land being Common Good. All development will encounter issues that required solutions and negotiation, many more complex than the above.

The analysis does not sufficiently justify why the co-location of the stadium and training facilities is necessary and that a standalone stadium could not be accommodate on a sequentially preferable site. Training facilities could be located on an alternative site within the City or Shire. This would negate the need for such a large site and the need to develop within the greenbelt detached from the built-up area of the city. Indeed, the strategy of developing separate sites was being pursued by Aberdeen Football Club until very recently.

In summary, the justification for the current proposal is particularly weak. The Scottish Government has issued draft guidance in order to assess a potential development’s net economic benefit. Para 29 of SPP requires due consideration be given to net economic benefit of a proposed development. The Scottish planning system supports economically, environmentally and socially sustainable places and achieving the right development in the right place. The applicant’s supporting Socio-Economic Impact Statement focuses on the proposal’s employment creation, gross and net, in the Kingsford area. It concludes that there would be a net generation of 30 jobs post construction and over a 25 year period that the net additional GVA generated could equate to £14m at the Kingsford level and £108m at the Aberdeen City level (including construction costs). While the document discusses the net gain to the Kingsford area it doesn’t address displacement of jobs from the Seaton area which is in the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation). In addition, Seaton is subject to a Community Locality Plan (a component of the Community Planning system) in order to promote regeneration in the area. The impact of the relocation on the area around the current stadium is not addressed. Added to this, there is also likely to be a loss of match day revenue from this area and the wider City Centre which is not directly considered in the economic assessment. As a consequence, the economic assessment does not present a realistic picture of the impact of stadium relocation to this site.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS AND POLICY CONCLUSION

Improving and modernising the facilities of Aberdeen Football Club are supported by the SDP, as is the provision of community facilities. However, this application is contrary to the Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Plan (2014), which is up-to-date and relevant to this application. The proposal will result in the loss of greenbelt land, the coalescence of urban areas, inappropriately located development giving rise to unsustainable travel patterns and have a negative impact on the City Centre in terms of its mix of uses and lost revenue. The applicant has not adequately justified why the stadium and training pitches etc need to be co-located or why sequentially preferable sites have been dismissed as unsuitable. The applicant claims that the net economic benefit of the proposal is a material consideration.

However, the attempt to demonstrate what the net economic benefit would be seem to neglect the loss of jobs in a deprived area. Various gross and net figures are quoted in the economic assessment but without stating the loss to the existing community of Seaton or of match-day expenditure in the city. Draft guidance on assessing net economic benefit in the planning system was issued in early 2016 by the Scottish Government, but no account appears to have been taken of this. Without a proper assessment, it is not clear what the net economic impact of the proposal might be. The strong framework for investment decisions set by the SDP (SDP Aims, p6) requires strong decision-making on applications which clearly contradict the strategy of the plan. The application is in an unsustainable location in that it will have a very small catchment in terms of access by walking, cycling and public transport compared to other sequentially preferable sites. It does not follow the sequential town centre first approach of SPP or accord with the aims and objectives of the SDP.

“Stadium so far out of town, it’s in another town!”

Infrastructure Services Committee met today, as planned, to discuss (amongst other things) their response as consultees to Aberdeen City Council regarding the AFC stadium proposals for Kingsford. I sat in as an observer at the public meeting and share notes of my observations here. Please note that this is my take on the meeting and I’m happy to be corrected on any glaring mistakes by those who were there.

If you don’t want to know the score without reading the summary, look away now. 7 councillors voted to agree with the views of the Garioch Area Committee in February, i.e. to lodge an objection and 7 councillors voted to place a holding objection on the consultation on the grounds that further technical information be sought. The Chair had the casting vote and agreed that the views of ISC were aligned to those of the Garioch Area Committee. The formal view of Aberdeenshire Council is now to oppose this application.

The planners firstly outlined the application for members as well as summarising the consultation process so far. Councillors asked an array of questions about parking, pedestrians, traffic flow and economic impact. No-one at the meeting including the applicant could offer any definitive information about a proposed Controlled Parking Zone. This is a very integral part of the traffic assessment and surely both councils should be aware of what is planned. As parking has yet to be decriminalised in Aberdeenshire, who would foot the bill for policing of it and who would administer the permit system? It is likely that with the CPZ now being extended to a 30 minute walking radius, a large part of Westhill and Elrick could be included.

George Yule, AFC and Ally Prockter from the Community Trust addressed the committee and gave a brief timeline on why the application was lodged and made reference to having worked with Aberdeen City Council previously to find a site for the club with Loirston being acceptable and within the Local Development Plan (LDP) but now Kingsford was their plan C. When asked about the arrangements with Arnhall Park businesses for extra parking, George explained that the club now have 3 companies agreeing in principle. There will be a cost for parking at Arnhall and it has been said before by AFC that this would be reflected in the match ticket price. Today we were told that any funds raised from parking would go to the Community Trust.

Mike Forbes spoke next to the committee. Mike is a Westhill resident supporting the stadium. From speaking to his friends he feels there is a groundswell of support although he said this was difficult to quantify. He has spoken to people who are not football supporters but who welcomed the stadium. He spoke about the economic impact on local shops and restaurants. This conflicted with other views of local businesses who feared that rogue parking would keep their customer base away on match days. He mentioned that the stadium would be an inspiration for children. I cannot disagree with his point per say but children would be inspired wherever the stadium was built.

The No for Kingsford group were up next to refute some of these claims. John Simpson and John Thornton spoke about their independently-commissioned Transport Assessment from Waterman’s which concluded that this application does not comply with policy and is unsustainable. The TA from the applicant underestimates car travel. They said there will be little economic benefit to the local area and certainly would not mitigate the downtown in oil and gas as suggested. Concerns were raised about the impact on the Seaton area by removing the stadium from Pittodrie. Scottish Planning Policy states that a major development such as this should be close to the city centre and this application ignores the Strategic Development Plan. The applicant was accused of riding roughshod over planning policy.

Last but not least, Audrey Findlay, Acting Chair of Westhill & Elrick Community Council addressed committee saying that her group took time to form their opinion, poring over the some 160 pages which accompanied the application, basing their representation on planning policy and practical issues. Greenbelt is one of the main concerns with a huge building planted on the Kingsford site changing the landscape forever. The community does not want coalescence with Kingswells. She said planning policy is there for a reason and this breaks too many policies. She also highlighted recent articles in the press about congestion hot spots being likely after the AWPR is complete – without any new development and the A944/Kingswells junction being one such hot spot.

The planning policy concerns are well documented in reports from both councils so I won’t reiterate them – all are available on Aberdeen City planning website.

The recurring theme today at ISC was “great idea, wrong site” with AFC being applauded for their vision of the stadium (not the location). David Aitchison, the Chair, who is also a Westhill councillor summed up by saying that no-one can deny AFC need a new stadium but it will affect Westhill forever and ultimately people live here. He was not impressed by the transportation assessment  and said the proposal was so far out of town it’s in another town!

Now it’s over to Aberdeen City councillors in the summer to consider whatever report comes in front of them from their planners, based on planning policy and taking consideration of the many consultees’ responses, including Aberdeenshire Council. It won’t be a numbers game or a popularity contest which brings me to Mark McDonald, MSP’s very recent statement in the press where he urges the council to provide planning training to newly elected councillors and cited the AFC stadium application. The vote is expected to take place in June – a few short weeks after the local government elections. Although Mark has openly supported the proposals he says “It is absolutely vital that our city council’s planning processes are respected and newly elected councillors make that vote, adhering to the regulations and rules which govern the planning system.” He added that new members must be “absolutely clear on declaring any interest in the project”. As an ex-councillor himself, Mark will be very much aware that councillors must stick to planning policy when determining an application. I’ve had calls from residents to break planning policy for this one application. I am sure we would see a deluge of legal claims if we did! I am disappointed to see some online comments from supporters who have no regard or insight of the planning system dismiss those who have taken the time and made the effort to study the proposals so that they can at least make an informed representation based on planning considerations. “Get it built” and “COYR” are not material considerations and online letters of support left blank giving no material reasons for that support count for very little. I’ve spoken many times about the need for residents to get involved in the planning system earlier and this is a perfect example of why. We all have work to do to make this happen. Councillors have work to do to explain to their constituents what our roles are in the planning process if only to counteract the reactive “nugget”, “dinosaur”, “NIMBY” etc labels when we vote the “wrong” way!

 

 

Aberdeenshire to form final view on Kingsford stadium plans

On Thursday 16th March, Infrastructure Services Committee is recommended to note and consider the view provided by Garioch Area Committee last month that the application be refused for the reasons as detailed and to note and consider the responses already provided by consultees including the holding objections from Environmental Health & Transportation. The Committee is further recommended to agree a formal consultation response for submission to Aberdeen City Council on the stadium proposal at Kingsford. I hope that ISC will reiterate our comments made at Garioch Area to request that Aberdeenshire Council continue to be involved in the process as the plans progress. We fully respect the right of Aberdeen City councillors to make the final decision but as this plan is a significant departure from both the Local Development Plan and the Strategic Development Plan and affects Aberdeenshire residents, both authorities should be working in partnership to work through the issues raised. The report before ISC members can be seen here (item 8).

 

 

Places, people and planning – consultation events

As the period for responding to “Places, people and planning” draws to a close (4th April) there will be an opportunity to speak to the Scottish Government team over the next couple of weeks.

They are in Trinity Shopping Centre, Aberdeen on Wednesday 15th March from 9am-4pm.

The consultation can be found here and there is still time to send in your comments. If you have views about any of the main themes: making plans for the future, getting more people involved in local plans, building more high quality homes and associated infrastructure, stronger leadership and smarter resourcing, please respond to the consultation.

 

Garioch councillors oppose stadium site

At Garioch Area Committee today (Tuesday 21st February), councillors were asked to note the contents of their planner’s report here (item 7) to provide a view to Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) later next month on the Aberdeen City application 170021/DPP and request that Aberdeenshire Council be consulted on any relevant additional information or addendums to the Transport Assessment and Environmental Statement in order that the Council can fully consider any changes to the proposal and assess impacts upon Aberdeenshire.

Westhill and Elrick Community Council as a statutory body requested to speak at the meeting. There were further requests to speak from the “No to Kingsford” group, the “Westhill for Kingford” group and George Yule for AFC. This allowed councillors to hear a range of views and ask questions as required. We were also able to get clarification on particular issues from our own planner and Transport officer.

The full Minutes of this meeting will be available as a public document in about three weeks time but to summarise, after a long discussion, councillors had a number of issues to put forward to ISC. A motion was put forward to recommend to oppose the application due to multiple breaches of policy. An amendment was offered to put forward the concerns highlighted in the report with a view to getting more information. The motion carried 6-5. ISC will now consider in March, Garioch Area Committee’s recommendation to oppose the application. I voted for the motion and I give my reasons for this below.

This has been a very frustrating application for local councillors. We have a major proposal on our doorstep which is going to impact on Westhill and District but we are really at the mercy of Aberdeen City councillors.

We’ve had a huge amount of letters, emails and phone calls from residents about the stadium proposal. We’ve sat through dozens of meetings listening to the local debate. I circulated my own survey some months ago to gauge local views with a 60/40 split against out of 500 responses.

I have also taken time to speak to local businesses in the more rural areas who are in favour as they see business opportunities. I have also spoken to businesses who can see their trade being adversely affected by the development.

I do think that AFC have been a bit unfair to their fans and shareholders by portraying this as a done deal. They should have emphasised more that there is a planning process to go through and planning policies to consider. It’s not a numbers game.

The Garioch Area Committee’s job is to look at planning policy without influence of big business and without being swayed by the popularity of an organisation.

The main planning issues for me are:

Loss of greenbelt, particularly leading to coalescence of Kingswells and Westhill. We love our City neighbours but we are two separate identities. The purpose of the greenbelt is to direct planned growth to the most appropriate locations and protect and give access to open space within and around towns and cities. There have been many references made by supporters of the fact that most residential and business land in Westhill was greenbelt at one point. Not technically so; some was agricultural land, some greenfield, but nearly all planned and consulted on – see comments about the Local Development Plan below.

Traffic issues – the traffic issues have been well documented in the planner’s report. The proximity to the AWPR being used as a positive point by the applicant is actually a myth. The AWPR will take cars from the north and the south on to the A944 which Transport Scotland has reported will see only a 1% reduction of traffic after the AWPR is completed. There is no direct link from the AWPR to the stadium. Some 55.5% of fans according to the Traffic Assessment will travel from Aberdeen City – most using the A944, not the AWPR. For residents as far up as Strathdon, their main route in to Aberdeen is via the A944.

At this stage there are a lot of unanswered questions over traffic management and parking.

The Kingsford site is not in the Local Development Plan. Developers are well aware of the LDP process which allows councils to work with developers and local communities at an early stage to set out a land use plan which everybody should have confidence in.

The reason I voted for the motion to oppose rather than wait for further information about the traffic and parking issues was that the main breach of policy, i.e. greenbelt, cannot be mitigated against unless we pick up Westhill and move it further west. I have real concerns about the traffic management and parking issues but we’ll see what they come up with.

I have no doubt AFC need a new stadium and I really do wish them well, but Kingsford is not the right site.

 

AFC stadium proposal to be discussed next week

 

Aberdeenshire Council are being consulted on the major development that is the proposed community and sports facilities at Kingsford, near Westhill. Garioch Area Committee will consider our planner’s report on Tuesday 21st February and provide a view to go forward to a future Infrastructure Services Committee. You can read here (item 7) what our planners conclude about the application.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Places, people and planning

As I’ve commented on before, the Scottish Government in 2015 embarked on a “root and branch” review of the Scottish Planning System. An independent panel considered hundreds of consultation responses, many from local residents and community councils as well as developers and other stakeholders. A report was then issued to Scottish Ministers in May 2016 with 48 recommendations for change. The Scottish Government have now outlined 20 proposals which it considers will deliver “a great planning system”.

I recently attended a meeting which gave an overview of the consultation paper “Places, people and planning” (consultation open until 4th April 2017). The Minister for Local Government and Housing, Kevin Stewart summarised the process of the consultation overall. He highlighted the need, outwith the review, for training on planning to be made compulsory for local councillors. This is, in my opinion, a good move. New councillors can find themselves elected one week and not many weeks after, be sitting in their first area committee faced with the daunting task of determining planning applications. Some councillors pick up planning quickly, others don’t. I think what developers and applicants are looking for is consistency in decision-making. On the back of the Minister’s comments on training, the Managing Director of one North East building company commented that some of the same faces on planning committees had been seen for too long – (that sir, would be democracy). He also pleaded for some common sense to prevail in planning decisions. I would argue that one man’s (or woman’s) common sense is another’s departure from policy! It depends on what side of the fence you sit on. The same gentleman did have a good point to make about statutory consultee responses being lodged in good time. Some planning applications are held up by utility companies, council services or other public bodies not responding timeously. He also said that the public need to have confidence in the Local Development Plan. I very much agree. Communities need to be more involved in the development of local plans and equally developers need to stop pushing boundaries by wanting to build on greenbelt or build on land not allocated on the LDP. This would allow everybody to have confidence in the plans and allow consistency in decision-making.

Increased planning fees were given an airing and this developer was in agreement but only if performance was improved. You can’t argue with that.

He wasn’t too impressed with Local Review Bodies; with 50% of appeals being won, elected members are “not getting it right”, he said.

On a more positive note, Robert Gray, Head of Planning and Building Standards at Aberdeenshire Council, who I always enjoy listening to, told us his thoughts on the paper. He spoke about national house-building targets and questioned if councils should be able to exceed them. With regard to regional governance, he said more research is needed to explore – are we talking merger involving SDPA, Nestrans, City Region Deal, councils together? Should we be using Compulsory Purchase Orders more effectively, not just as a last resort? Have we got the length of local development plans right or should they cover a longer period. Robert had fascinating slides from the 1952 Aberdeen City Plan which included what is now the yet-to-be-completed AWPR!

Robert also spoke about engagement in the planning process with schools and communities. He relayed an example from a community in Fife where a public event was held to discuss what the local area would look like in the future – what new buildings should there be and what the infrastructure would look like – adults and planning officers debated for hours on where to best locate a new road. A 9-year old boy went up to the map and drew a line where he thought the road should go. Planners eventually agreed and that was where the road was built! Do 9 year olds know better than us?……

Last summer, I had the privilege of being invited in to Elrick Primary School to speak to senior pupils about my role as a councillor and to speak about new development in the area. We discussed the new hotel being built at the old brick work site in Elrick which had just gone through the planning stage. The pupils were very engaged and asked lots of pertinent questions. As I was leaving, a 9-year old boy tugged my sleeve and said “is it true that Pittodrie is moving to Westhill?”. I replied “I don’t think that is true; I certainly haven’t heard anything”. The rest, they say, is history (or maybe not), but maybe 9 year olds really do know more than us!

As far as planning goes, local councillors are “damned if they do and damned if they don’t”, but planning really does affect all of us. We are all stakeholders in our own communities. I’ve said before that planning can sometimes be a very dry subject, but it is important that we make it less so and get people involved. If you have time, please do have a look at the consultation paper and give your views.

 

Stadium survey results sent to AFC

AFC Survey 22 08 16

Westhill and District councillor Iris Walker has lodged the results of an online survey to Aberdeen Football Club ahead of the closing date for comments at the informal stage of a public consultation. The Elrick-based councillor carried out the online survey to gauge the initial views of local residents on the proposed stadium and training facility at Kingsford, near Westhill. The survey returned over 500 responses from local residents showing a near 60-40 split in opinion. Councillor Walker said “Although it will be Aberdeen City councillors who have the final say in any formal application, I wanted to make sure that I captured a range of views so that local councillors could represent those views if asked to do so at a later stage.”

Concerns raised from objectors include increased traffic and parking in local streets and public spaces, insufficient road infrastructure, knock-on costs to Aberdeenshire Council, proximity to oil and gas pipelines, noise and light pollution, as well as loss of greenbelt and loss of a boundary between City and Shire.

Those who would welcome the new stadium near Westhill said that the proposal would bring jobs to the area and much-needed sports facilities, local hotels and businesses would get a boost and it would put Westhill on the map.

Councillor Walker added “of course we have not seen the detailed plans yet so it is really important that residents make their views known once they do study the final proposals by making written representations to Aberdeen City at the appropriate time once the formal application is lodged.

 

City Forum meets to discuss AFC stadium plans

AFC

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:

  1. Note the key issues identified (see report attached);
  2. if necessary seek clarification on any particular matters; and
  3. 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.

AFC reveal new stadium plan consultation events

A series of public exhibitions in late July and early August will provide the first details of Aberdeen Football Club’s plans to develop a community and sports campus, football academy and stadium on land at Kingsford.

The consultation events at Westhill, Kingswells and in the city will enable members of the public to view and comment on the proposals before a planning application is submitted to Aberdeen City Council later in the year.

AFC


The main consultation events will be:

  • Tuesday 26 July 1pm to 8pm at Fourmile House, Old Skene Road, Kingswells
  • Friday 29 July 1pm to 8pm at Holiday Inn Aberdeen West, Westhill Drive, Westhill
  • Tuesday 2 August 1pm to 8pm at Pittodrie Stadium, Pittodrie Street, Aberdeen

Further pop up exhibitions will also take place:

  • Wednesday 3 August 12 noon to 6pm at Trinity Shopping Centre, Union Street, Aberdeen
  • Friday 5 August 12 noon to 5pm at Central Library, Rosemount Viaduct, Aberdeen
  • Monday 8 August 2pm to 8pm at Pittodrie Stadium, Pittodrie Street, Aberdeen

The proposals will also be available to view via the Club’s website at www.afc.co.uk/stadium from 26 July.

Comments in relation to the proposals will be accepted until Friday 26 August 2016. This will enable the Club to review responses to the consultation before a formal planning application for the project is submitted to the local authority later this year.