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The Inconvenient Truth – What AFC won't tell you about Kingsford Stadium Plans

the facts about their stadium proposals that they don’t want you to know.  Text in red is a statement from Aberdeen Football Club. The Inconvenient Truths provided are responses from NKS and researched by the many people that are supporting us with our campaign to stop the stadium development. Every resident in the West end of Aberdeen should be concerned about this proposal – it will impact negatively on us all. You can object to the stadium proposals online NOW – just click this link (remember you must include material considerations – click here for info about them):

AFC Myth Claim: The stadium is a single tier structure and will not dominate Westhill.  The ‘Landscape & Visual Impact Assessment’ in the planning application provides detailed, accurate visualisations of how the development will integrate into the surrounding landscape. This assessment confirms that the proposals will in no way ‘dominate’ the setting of Westhill. The Inconvenient Truth: the stadium may well be a single tier structure, however the Design Access Statement (page 41) states “The roof of the Stadium has been raised from 6 degrees to 11 degrees to a height of 21 metres from the pitch to the underside of the roof cladding.” Typically, a storey is taken as 3m in a building – this means that the stadium will, in fact be OVER seven storeys in height.   And it is located in a prominent position at Westhill and will dominate the local area – the proposed mitigations in no way negate the impact of the oppressive building.
AFC Myth Claim: The fully enclosed stadium is designed to dramatically improve the match-day atmosphere and experience, by containing light and noise and therefore significantly reducing any impact out with the stadium itself. Noise and light impacts have been assessed in detail as part of the planning application. The Inconvenient Truth: The stadium is not fully enclosed – it doesn’t have a roof!  The development including training pitches will be operational each day and late into the evening. The floodlights from the pitches, car parking and roadways will pollute the night sky.  The noise and light impacts have been assessed as part of the application however local residents know that even the noise from small events at Lawsondale Park carry widely across the local area.  There is no stadium currently there –  no noise from crowds or a PA system and no floodlighting. So anything new of this nature will bring both noise and light pollution, a material planning consideration.
AFC Myth Claim: The new community sports campus will be accessible to Kingswells and Westhill, two communities which are currently lacking such facilities. The overall development represents around £50million of private investment in the region and will create jobs. More importantly, such an investment will signal confidence in the region which has been severely affected by the oil and gas downturn, and when combined with other sporting facilities in the city will help make the North-east a sporting powerhouse. Increasing facilities for and access to sport across our communities drives the region’s healthier, fairer and more inclusive agendas. The Inconvenient Truth: The development will bring limited benefits to the local area and has the potential to damage local business, especially retailers.  Research shows that local traders suffer significantly when a stadium is built in an unsustainable location such as Kingsford.  Users of local retail stay away from the area for fear of being caught in the traffic chaos around the stadium.  This depresses the local economy and can lead to a reduction in local retail.  The 2007 Report into the Economic Impact of the Cardiff Millennium Stadium states:

“The presence of stadia and the resulting event visitation can cause visitor displacement particularly where the new infrastructure is placed close to retail centres.  For example, some people will simply delay their shopping visits, whilst others will switch to alternative retail centres on event days.” (Millennium Stadium – Economic Impact Report)

Having poured through ALL the documents to support AFC’s planning application there is no mention what so ever of what these ‘community sports facilities’ are. It really is disingenuous of AFC to refer to this development as a community sports campus.  This development is a football development, nothing else, which seems likely to mostly benefit a few elite players at whatever age level.  

AFC Myth Claim: Instances of anti-social behaviour and hooliganism at AFC matches are few and far between. Over the whole season at Pittodrie, there were only 7 minor incidents and 6 arrests. It’s long been recognised that we largely have a responsible and family-oriented fan base.

The Inconvenient Truth: The anti-social behaviour amongst a certain element of fans is not a thing of the past as AFC would have us believe.   It has to be accepted that although the majority of fans behave well, there is an element of home and away support that do not.  However, disturbances are kept to a minimum in Aberdeen as the police are able to monitor the fans by a series of 93 CCTV cameras.  The 2016 AFC v Rangers fixture necessitated a major police operation, with dozens of police on duty, a police mounted unit and police dogs.   There was also a large-scale CCTV operation.    So trouble is kept to a minimum, not by the fans wearing halos, but by the containment of them by the police.   How will this be managed in Westhill?  There are no CCTV cameras in Westhill and there’s no proposal to implement.  Fans arriving by train will be out of police sight as soon as they leave the city centre.  Fans arriving and parking around the stadium will be unsegregated – the potential for trouble would be very real and potentially much greater than is currently.  There is a danger that this could spill onto the A944 and other areas in Westhill, not only presenting dangers for driver and fans, but giving the community of Westhill a highly unwanted and unpleasant environment.

AFC Myth Claim: The robust strategy in the planning application sets out the proposals for the police to control access to and from the site at match times through traffic signals. Police Scotland have suggested that shuttle buses will be given priority to leave the site to reach the AWPR in minutes in order to clear the site with minimal disruption. Additionally, the Transport Assessment confirms that traffic flow on the A944 at match times, inclusive of football traffic, will be less than at weekday peak drive-time. Some of the concerns around traffic congestion are borne out of existing roads infrastructure which do not take into account the opening of the AWPR which will happen before the stadium would be completed. Furthermore, it must be recognised that our average attendance is around 13,300 for 20 home SPFL matches, plus any European or Cup Games and that not everyone drives. Realistically, we are talking about around 1,500 vehicles arriving at times ranging from two and half hours to 30 minutes before a match on average once every two weeks.

The Inconvenient Truth: The AFC traffic assessment, which is based on a 13,750 crowd,  states in section 2.6.10 that 50% (6,875) will intend to travel by car.  34% (4,675) will travel by bus.  That is 2,291 cars at an average of 3 per car, and 93 buses at 50 per bus.  These are generous averages and we also believe that car usage will be higher.  All this, for an estimated 13,750 crowd.  So, we’re not talking about a 20,000 capacity crowd here when traffic on the roads will be greatly increased.  Why are AFC now quoting a figure of 1,500 vehicles?

AFC Myth Claim: There is not a significant flood risk in the area. As part of the planning process a full flood risk assessment has been carried out with SEPA. There may be localised flooding from the Brodiach Burn, however the proposal has been designed to accommodate this, ensuring there are no additional impacts on watercourses as a result of the development.

The Inconvenient Truth: we have additional evidence which is not mentioned in the flood risk assessments, that the Brodiach burn and tributaries present a much greater flood risk than calculated.  There are a number of adjacent properties which flood and one of the car parks is on a flood plain.  AFC’s proposals show that this car park will be allowed to flood.  The water table is only about 30 cms below the surface in places. This is a very wet area.  SEPA flooding maps show that the area is both a high flood risk from the Brodiach Burn and from Surface Water.

AFC Myth Claim: The proposed development has been designed fully in accordance with current planning guidelines set by the Health & Safety Executive for a development near to pipelines. AFC has also had discussions with both owners of the pipelines outwith the East and West boundaries of the site. Neither have raised any concerns with our proposals.

The Inconvenient Truth: Current guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive state that football stadiums are the most sensitive developments around these pipelines.  HSE guidance is that football grounds should not be built within any of the safe zones. 

[caption id="attachment_2596" align="aligncenter" width="660"] Excerpt from HSE land use planning guidance relating to pipelines.[/caption]

The stadium is very tightly constrained by the pipeline regulations and some areas (including the community facilities) have pipeline safety restrictions on the numbers of people who can be in them.  T In The Park had to be moved due to a change in the pipeline regulations, an event which happens only once a year.  BP have not objected, in part because they had to settle an £8.5 million compensation law suit with the owner of the T In The Park site following it’s forced move from Balado because of the BP pipeline – the same pipeline that is a few hundred metres from the proposed AFC stadium – any objection could leave them open to a similar legal claim by the landowner here.

AFC Myth Claim: Planning Policy provides guidelines for such developments as this, and we have established, taking all factors into account, that the right number of on-site parking is 1600 car parking spaces, which is in excess of maximum standards. Additional parking is also proposed in specific areas offsite – out with the local residential areas – and within walking distance of the site. These form the basis of ongoing discussions between the Club and a number of local businesses who are very supportive of the proposed development. In line with the overall sustainable regional transport strategy, there will be a strong emphasis on supporters using shuttle buses from various locations across the city and region to access the site. A strict and controlled parking zone will be proposed in the eastern part of Westhill to protect residents from unauthorised or nuisance parking similar to the conditions currently in place at Pittodrie Stadium on match-days.

The Inconvenient Truth: AFC have not been granted the additional parking spaces – they are making an assumption that they will get dispensation for this from the Scottish Government.  The Scottish Government is not easily persuaded to provide additional car parking spaces because a developer chooses to situate a development in an inappropriate location.  Current planning regulations only allow for 1,333 spaces.  This has to include all corporate, media, staff and player parking.  This could be over 500.  For Loirston, 674 spaces were allocated to this category of parking. Potentially this means there could be only 659 parking spaces on site for supporters.

The additional off site parking is only proposed and AFC has provided no evidence of any formal agreements with local businesses to use any of their car parks.  Additionally, there is no agreement with the council to use the park and ride facilities.

We anticipate that Westhill residents will have to pay for parking permits.  There is no mechanism by which private companies such as AFC can reimburse the council and the police for running and enforcing a system of parking permits so the cost will most likely have to be passed onto residents.

AFC Myth Claim: There will be around 20 first team matches every year, plus European or Cup games although these are not guaranteed. Under-20 and/ or Academy matches do not attract more than a few hundred spectators which represents no traffic and/ or parking issues locally. Whilst there is scope for other one-off events such as concerts or major sporting events, these will not be a regular occurrence. Pittodrie has only hosted three concerts in the last 20 years.

The Inconvenient Truth: There will be events at the proposed stadium throughout the year.  AFC will seek to make maximum use of the stadium facility to generate the most possible income. It is highly likely that the club will promote the stadium as a modern concert venue and seek to hold multiple events, particularly through the summer period. It is disingenuous to claim that Pittodrie has only hosted a handful of concerts – this is because the configuration of the stadium makes it’s use as a non-sporting venue difficult.

AFC Myth Claim: The Club achieved planning consent for Loirston, Cove, however due to changes in Aberdeen City Council Policy part of the site that was allocated for stadium parking was rezoned when the decision was made to locate the New City South Academy at Loirston. This meant that there was then insufficient land available to deliver the Stadium there. Kings Links is not suitable as there are issues over the land ownership and the footprint is not large enough to incorporate a sports and community campus, training facilities and stadium. There are no other sites available which can accommodate a development of this size within or on the boundaries of the city.

The Inconvenient Truth: There is no need to co-locate stadium and training facilities. In emails obtained by NKS, it is clear that the original plan for Kingsford was for a training facility. Prior to the announcement of Kingsford, AFC were in discussions with Aberdeenshire Council with a view to developing a site at Inverurie as the training facility.  Both Kings Links and Loirston have been ear marked for stadium developments in the local and strategic development plans. AFC is unwilling to consider either these sites or redevelopment. Why? They claim financial reasons – selling Pittodrie would part-fund any new development. THIS IS NOT A MATERIAL CONSIDERATION FOR PLANNING. This is a financial consideration for a commercial company.

AFC Myth Claim: Pittodrie could be redeveloped but the reality is that, to meet current UEFA conditions, the redevelopment would result in capacity being reduced to 12,000 which would have a significant impact on finances at the club, causing us to struggle to be financially viable, able to compete at the top of Scottish football, and impossible to compete in Europe. The development at Pittodrie would have to be carried out over a 3-4 year period, causing major disruption to the Club, its fans, and the local residents. For example, during this period, the Club would have to play any European games in Edinburgh or Glasgow. The cost of redeveloping a much-reduced capacity stadium would be similar to building a new 20,000 seater stadium – without the benefits of top-class training facilities and no community facilities. Furthermore, by not being able to sell the Pittodrie site, we would lose around £18m of the funding for development.

The Inconvenient Truth: Truth here is the AFC board and especially the chairman have intentionally run down Pittodrie. They have failed to invest in the stadium and to develop it in a similar manner to other SPL clubs over the same period. Any disruption during a period of rebuilding would have little impact on supporters – with a typical gate of 13,000 the club could easily manage to configure the stadium during upgrades to achieve this capacity. Let’s look at this in detail:

[caption id="attachment_1974" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Pittodrie and Surrounding Land[/caption] To the east towards the beach behind the RDS stands a large amount of space unused. Then, just behind the South Stand towards the graveyard there also exists a huge amount of space (almost enough to turn the current Pittodrie pitch sideways) readily for redevelopment.  More so, behind the historical Main Stand on Pittodrie Street there is an artificial pitch that has never been used for anything other than a players’ car park. It’s staggering that grass has never been laid on this space to create a training pitch for the club.  Football clubs throughout Europe utilise such nearby space for training yet at Aberdeen FC it has never become anything more than an underused gravel car park. Pittodrie can be redeveloped but the club is unwilling to consider this option so trot out “it can’t be done” at every opportunity.

Support our campaign – together we can defeat this proposal.



3 thoughts on “The Inconvenient Truth – What AFC won't tell you about Kingsford Stadium Plans

  1. The new development at Counteswells ~ 3000 homes. This alone will create major problems for users of the A944 in both directions, Aberdeen and Westhill, even without a new football stadium.
    This really hasn’t been thought through properly and has upset so many local residents. Whatever credibility the Chairman had in Westhill has gone.

  2. Congratulations on a comprehensive, and well researched reply to AFC’s campaign of myths.
    As an elderly resident – for over 25 years – in the Brimmond area of Westhill, I dread the impact of the many supporters who will leave their cars over the A944 and in Elrick and who will then walk past, or through or over the local gardens and the irreplaceable local Nature Reserve that is the Arnhall Moss.
    The more I read of this proposal, the more incomprehensible it seems that it was ever suggested in the first place.

  3. My husband and I would like to pass on our heart felt thanks to the NKS people who put this report together. What an amazing piece of work and you can see all the hard work and time that has gone into it. As Mrs Leipeir says it’s hard to believe that AFC’s proposal got off the ground right at the start. Anyone driving out the A944 should see all the problems that will arise . It’s a no brainer !!!! Not to mention what it will do to Westhill.
    Keep up the good work guys.

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