Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

February 25, 2009

Banff community finally to get new sports facility

A community trust is finalising a deal which will see Aberdeenshire Council and Tesco invest £10 million pounds in the community-run Better Life Sports and Community Community Centre. The Princess Royal Sports and Community Trust has an impressive track record in delivering health education and sports promotion work. This new development will be a massive boost

BANFF looks more certain than ever to get the long-delayed Better Life Centre sports and community centre after Aberdeenshire Council announced last week it will invest £10million in the whole project.

It has finally agreed on a deal with Tesco to sell them Canal Park for a new Tesco store.

The news emerged as part of the council’s budget settlement for the coming year.

The council announced that they will invest £2.5million of capital plan cash into the whole project, adding to the £7.5million which the council is expected to get from selling off the park and the Bridge Street Community Centre to Tesco.

But there is still one major hurdle to cross.

The council has yet to secure legal agreement to sell the land which was gifted to the two councils of Banff and Macduff for the benefit of local people by the Duke of Fife in 1906 – and that could still be challenged in the Court of Session.

However, any such challenge to the intention and terms of the original donation by the Duke would require significant financial backing and legal expertise.

If the legal loose ends are successfully tied up, much of the £10million will go towards replacing the Canal Park football and tennis facilities at a new sports complex next to Duff House.

But in Macduff there will also be a youth drop-in centre and improvements to the existing facilities at the Myrus pitches.

Local councillors John Cox and Sydney Mair have been strong supporters of the whole Tesco/Better Life project.

Councillor Cox said: “These much-needed facilities will be welcomed by all in Banff and the surrounding area and I hope will be a catalyst for further investment in the town.

“It is only right that the local community benefits from the sale of the land to Tesco and I’m pleased that the Council has agreed to also draw money from their capital plan in order to fund this project.

“I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the long and complex process to get us to where we are today.

“There is still a great deal of work to be done but I think today’s decision is a significant milestone for this project.”

Member for Troup, Councillor Mair, has campaigned for improved facilities to be included in Macduff, as well as Banff.

He said: “Whilst Canal Park was gifted to the town councils of Banff and Macduff there was always going to be a chance that any new development would focus on Banff.

“I’m delighted that the council has recognised the needs of Macduff and agreed to new sports facilities at Myrus and a drop-in centre for young people in Macduff.

“This is fantastic news and I’m keen that the project moves ahead quickly.”

The leader of Aberdeenshire Council, Anne Robertson said that she was delighted that the project was moving forwards: “This is a significant step in what has been a long and complex process.

“The new facilities which have been proposed will greatly benefit the people of both Banff and Macduff and ensure that everyone in the community has access to brand new state-of-the art leisure and community facilities.”

What the council describes as ‘complex negotiations’ with Tesco, described officially as the ‘preferred developer’ to the Canal Park site, and ongoing discussions with the Princess Royal Sports and Community Trust, who will run the facilities, have now resulted in agreement in principle to the development.

The negotiations have been ongoing for a number of years about the development of Canal Park, and the creation of the Better Life Centre.

Scottish Ministers approved in principle the application to develop the area in July 2007, and in June 2008 confirmed Aberdeenshire Council’s decision to grant planning permission.

Since then, detailed discussions have been taking place to agree appropriate funding arrangements between Aberdeenshire Council and the Princess Royal Sports and Community Trust.

The new facilities will include the Better Life Centre as a replacement to the existing Aberdeenshire Council-run community centre, a new football pitch and tennis court at Duff House, along with a new pavilion, and the upgrade of existing football pitches in the nearby Duff House grounds.

Macduff gets a grass pitch and an all-weather pitch plus a new pavilion up at Myrus, and a drop-in centre with meeting rooms for young people and the local community at Macduff.

The £10 million total cost will be funded through the sale of the land to Tesco, as well as funding from the Council’s Capital Plan.

Early plans for the Better Life Centre first came out almost ten years ago, and rumours about Tesco buying Canal Park circulated at about the same time.

Despite early council denials about Tesco involvement, it soon emerged that Tesco had already bought up the adjacent ground, formerly of Crown Motors.

After that, there was a long-running dispute between supporters of Princess Royal/Tesco, and those who wanted Canal Park/Bridge Street/ Duff House kept as they are now.

An unofficial referendum saw local people vote for the Tesco argument by 2:1.

The first work on the ground is likely to be at the Duff House site. Even though the council are selling to Tesco, the Canal Park site still cannot be touched until the replacement football pitch and tennis courts at Duff House are ready for use.