the letter we received from “Bill”, we’ve taken Stewart Milne’s letter; an epistle written with spin; inaccurate statements and a general theme disingenuous to the local community and embedded our reply.
Dear AFC Supporter, As we progress with one of the most exciting projects in our Club’s history, I’d like to share with you our overall vision and the next steps for our proposed community sports campus, football academy and stadium.
NKS: It would have been good to share a clear vision at the consultation events so that the communities of Westhill and Kingswells were fully aware of your proposals. Consultation should be just that – there was nothing to consult on.We have just concluded the first part of the consultation with a series of public exhibitions and I’d like to thank those of you who have shared your views with us and have taken the time to attend these exhibitions. There appears to be widespread support across the AFC fan-base for our ambitious plans at Kingsford.
NKS: The text “there appears” doesn’t mean there is widespread support. AFC is aware of a great many supporters who think a move to Kingsford is madness. A move of over 6.6 miles from the current AFC location, is a move unprecedented in UK football. In Scotland the average distance for club’s who have moved is around 1.5km, or less than a mile. In England the average distance moved is around 2.5km or less than 2 miles with only three clubs having moved more than 3 miles and none has moved more than 5 miles. Those clubs who have moved significant distances from their original home have suffered huge financial losses as well as football ones. The most obvious parallels are Coventry City who eventually had to leave its new home and play in a town 35 miles away and Bolton Wanderers who very nearly went out of existence. These are the clubs that moved furthest from their original homes in England, they couldn’t finance it and as a consequence now play their football at a much lower level that they were playing when they moved.Over the years, various sites have been considered but, finally, we believe we have the correct location, which the Club now has under legal control, and, crucially, a vision to deliver a dynamic, inspirational and inclusive community sports campus, football academy and stadium which will provide a lasting sporting and community legacy for this region.
NKS: So Bellfield wasn’t the perfect site (even though Stewart Milne said it was) and Loirston wasn’t the perfect site (even though Stewart Milne said it was). And this site? It is disingenuous to use the word “community” when referring to this proposal. AFC have offered no tangible benefit for the community of Westhill/Kingswells. The proposed “community offering” is notably sited closest to the Shell pipeline on the eastern side of the site, within the safety zone that limits usage of the ground to a limited number of people and for a limited duration…very generous.The selection of the Kingsford site, adjacent to the AWPR, clearly provides ease of access for many supporters travelling from locations North, South and West. Our supporters based in the city centre will have the option of using shuttle buses at various pick-up points in Aberdeen or the Park and Ride at Kingswells to get them to and from the stadium on match-days. Transport, traffic and parking will be carefully and rigorously controlled on match days as there are of course concerns among fans and people in the neighbouring communities.
NKS: The Kingswells South junction is not designed for the volume of traffic that this proposal will bring. The access for fans is not, as Stewart Milne claims, North, South and West – there is access into the site from a single entrance with traffic entering only from the already congested A944. There is no direct access to the site from the AWPR. The parking at the site will be 1333 spaces however only around 700 of these will be available for standard ticket holders. The rest will be used by corporate guests, staff, players and their families. The communities of Westhill and Kingswells, will have to suffer an unwanted ban on local street parking over the whole area. Without such a widespread ban, our streets will be overrun with inconsiderate AFC supporters and others, parking for a quick get-away from the game.During the exhibitions several of these concerns were raised, but so too were fresh ideas for tangible benefits to the local communities (and to the Club) put forward. This feedback will assist the project design team to inform and shape the detailed design and facility layouts, the traffic and parking arrangements and environmental impact assessments. We are committed to engage constructively with all relevant parties during this process and are working hard to identify solutions to the issues already identified and also those raised during the exhibitions.
NKS: AFC have presented no tangible benefits. And proposing the “scrap end” of the site as a “community space” is frankly insulting to the local community. If AFC was in any way serious about engaging with the community, it would build the community offering first, as a sign of trust and commitment to the community. This they will not do. Solutions can only be developed where issues can be solved. The traffic proposals for this stadium are undeliverable. No other stadium out of town is solely dependent on buses for the strategy – it is naive to think that there will be a significant shift from the current 72% plus who drive and that over 10000 people will travel by bus.The first part of the consultation process concluded on 26th of August. The next step will be to come back to our fans and the wider community with the detail of our plans. Following this, we expect to be in a position to have a detailed planning application submitted before the end of 2016. It will take the planners, statutory consultees and other stakeholders some further time to assess and consider the various aspects of the proposed development.
NKS: We have requested a meeting to discuss the proposals the club is now working on. Following a response from Stewart Milne, we await his invitation to discuss the many significant concerns of the communities of Westhill and Kingswells with him and his representatives. Given the volume of work required to deal with the significant challenges the proposed site presents, we believe this timescale is highly likely to slip. There are concerns about contamination, including some early indications pointing to the dumping of hazardous materials on the site, from a time when controls were less stringent than they are now. The site is prone to flooding which has impacted on many homes in the area. Any development on this site will increase the flood risk and is therefore unacceptable.If our application is approved, we would aim to have the football academy in place for the 2018 season, and the stadium built for the 2020 season.
NKS: If the application is approved, then further action will be taken. We believe the Scottish Government will call in the application for consideration by ministers. We will also take further action through the courts, if necessary.
However, given that this proposal breaches EVERY local planning guideline (Greenbelt, Local and Strategic Development Plans and Scottish Government Planning Guidance), we very much hope the local authority in Aberdeen City will vote against it.As you know the academy cannot come quickly enough for our football manager Derek McInnes. He has repeatedly said that, if Aberdeen FC wants to achieve its ambition to be a leading Club in Scotland, and serious contenders in Europe regularly, then our players – at both senior and youth level – must be provided with the best possible facilities to allow them every opportunity to fulfil their potential. The absence of dedicated and high quality training facilities is a real deterrent to delivering future success on the pitch.
NKS: There is no planning reason why Kingsford should be the site of such a facility. In fact, the majority of clubs choose to train quietly away from their stadiums. AFC have looked at a range of options/sites for training facilities in the city and the shire. There is no need for these to be at Kingsford.The project will deliver essential, modern training facilities, multi-sport and community facilities and a 21st century stadium that will also provide an enhanced match-day experience. This will support the ambitions of the club and its fans, further the extensive work in the community being carried out by the AFC Community Trust and provide wider socio-economic benefits to the region.
NKS: The AFC Community Trust can be based at any location. They could be sited anywhere in Aberdeen – in fact it could be argued that the Community Trust would be better placed within the communities in Aberdeen where it is most needed – in the areas of social deprivation where it operates its key programmes. There are no substantial “multi-sport” offerings for this stadium. So, it can host a rugby game, that doesn’t make it multi-sport and, as we’ve already stated, it is far from a “community” facility. There are ONLY economic risks for the local area of Westhill and Kingswells. This proposal will have a significant negative impact on the majority of local traders. Livelihoods will be lost as shoppers stay away from Westhill on Saturdays and mid-week for fear of being caught up in football crowds and traffic.It’s therefore not just about a stadium -this is a project of regional and national significance which everyone can get behind. We believe that this development can be the catalyst for greater sporting achievements across the region, for attracting today’s top class players and developing tomorrow’s footballing stars, as well as touching the lives of even more people in diverse communities through the work of AFC Community Trust.
NKS: Aberdeen Football Club is unable to afford top-class player talent currently; saddled with the debt from this proposed stadium, the club will be unable to attract talent of any description. The modern football game is based on hard economics, not “pie in the sky” aspirations by the club chairman. A move to Kingsford, and the poor experience it offers fans, could see gates fall and the club potentially being relegated. It is rhetoric to suggest that Kingsford is the answer to the club’s future. Stewart Milne said without such a move the club might not be here in 10 years’ time – we suggest that if it does move – it will likely be in administration in that timescale.There are very real challenges facing us in the progression of the proposed development, however we believe this is an opportunity for the region to unite in delivering a community and sports project that – when added to other facilities -will make Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire a sporting powerhouse.
NKS: This is a sales pitch, in an attempt to gain funding for this ridiculous proposal from City and Shire Councils and other bodies. This proposal will offer nothing to the North East. It will bring parking and traffic chaos for locals, a nightmare football “experience” for fans and, if granted with the extension to Prime Four, the very final end to Aberdeen’s city centre. Surely, Aberdeen’s local councillors will act strongly to protect the heart of Aberdeen and the vision of the City Centre Master Plan?In the face of the current uncertain local economy, we believe that the Kingsford project presents an opportunity for investment in best-in-class external sporting facilities and ensure that this area does not become a back-water in sporting terms, whilst simultaneously supporting diversification from a mature oil and gas industry.
NKS: With an uncertain future, we invest in those areas that will bring high value, professional jobs to the area. Renewables, our global services sector and the effective retraining of oil workers for a range of alternative careers. This has NOTHING to do with this stadium project. It makes no sense economically to invest in such a proposal during the most difficult financial and industrial crisis the North-East of Scotland has ever seen. Why would companies invest in AFC when they are laying off staff? A naive statement at best… The North-East has a strong history of sporting achievements in recent times. Our swimmers, rowers, canoeists, golfers, rugby players have all had great success in recent years. It is ridiculous to suggest that their tremendous successes would be in any way dependent on a football stadium in the future. That is just further rhetoric by the AFC chairman.I cannot stress enough that everyone at the Club is committed to approaching our detailed plans and the planning process constructively, diligently and in a transparent and responsible manner.
NKS: We cannot stress enough that the majority of residents in Westhill and Kingswells have united to oppose this proposal. We will continue to challenge and object to this proposal through all legal means, as strongly as possible.Your continued support to this Club is hugely appreciated and we would encourage you to continue to demonstrate your support of our plans in a positive and constructive way, particularly as we progress through the consultation and planning process.
NKS: We hope your supporters do act in a positive and constructive way, many fans do conduct themselves in a positive manner. We have, unfortunately, had significant experience of a small proportion of supporters whose behaviour has been far from positive and these incidents have been reported to the police.Yours sincerely, Stewart Milne Chairman, Aberdeen Football Club Replies by Clare Davidson, No Kingsford Stadium Group. [paypal_donation_button]]]>