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April 5, 2022

Who calls the shots?

The planning system frequently provides a lens through which one can observe how power, influence and wealth can be constrained (or not) in the public interest and also how strong and effective our system of local democracy is (or isn’t). Tennis matriarch, Judy Murray, has long dreamed of building a tennis and golf complex and luxury home development in her hometown of Dunblane. Massive community opposition to the destruction of a much loved woodland area at Park of Keir, and Stirling Council’s overwhelming rejection of the proposal have just been overturned by the Scottish Government. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

Libby Brooks, The Guardian

Judy Murray has won an 8 year battle to build a £40m tennis and golf complex on the outskirts of Dunblane that she says will stand as a fitting legacy for her sons, tennis stars Andy and Jamie.

But local campaigners and community councillors have vowed to continue their fight to prevent building on the green belt land, Park of Keir.

Earlier this week the Scottish government overturned a previous ruling by Stirling council, which had rejected the plans after more than 1,000 objections. Opponents argued that the complex – which will include 19 luxury homes, an 18-hole golf course and a four-star hotel – would destroy the rolling landscape and native woodland of Park of Keir.

Following an appeal and public local inquiry, Scottish ministers called the application in for review by the government-appointed reporter Timothy Brian. The ministers’ decision notice stated the benefits of the proposed scheme were sufficient to outweigh the loss of green belt land, concluding the tennis and golf centre in particular “would make an important contribution to the aim of increasing participation in both sports while providing facilities for the community. There will also be economic benefits, to the local area and more widely.”

Murray welcomed the decision. “We passionately believe that what we will create will not only serve as a legacy to the achievements of Jamie and Andy, but will be an important community asset that allows people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to enjoy for generations to come,” she said.

But the Scottish Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, Mark Ruskell, said the decision had left him feeling “gutted”.

“This is a decision that will destroy the historic landscape of Park of Keir that has existed for centuries,” he said.

Ruskell believes the developers’ vision has little to do with the Murray tennis legacy. “It’s about securing an exclusive development of rural mansions for the property developer who is hiding behind celebrities,” he said.

The partnership, which includes Murray, golfer Colin Montgomerie and local developers the King Group, argue the park is the ideal location to create “grassroots facilities which will make tennis, golf and many other sports accessible to all”.

As well as creating a Sir Andy Murray Museum, the site will include a 61-hectare (150-acre) community park with woodland walks, a children’s adventure playground and an all-weather pitch for five-a-side football.

In a statement, Dunblane community council said the decision “ignores widespread local concerns and makes a mockery of the planning process”.

Its chair, David Prescott, added: “This has taken eight years to get to the grant of planning in principle, which is only a step along the way. This has a long way to go yet.”