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.