no long term economic benefit from using this site and that it would have a negative impact on the city centre and particularly, the regeneration area of Seaton.
So where is a suitable location for a stadium? A stadium in a location that provides a benefit to the local community in terms of regeneration, delivers a workable solution for transportation and contributes to the economy of Aberdeen City and the North-East.
Step back in time
The ‘Aberdeen Arena’ project first raised its head in 2000/2001 with a bid for an unsuitable Greenbelt site at Bellfield beside Kingswells. However, the site was part of a bid for the European Football Championship, an event of significant importance, and consent was given on condition of the competition being awarded to a Scotland/Ireland bid. When the competition was awarded to Austria/Switzerland, Aberdeen F.C. attempted to progress the application but then withdrew it when the Scottish Executive insisted the application should go to a public inquiry.
In 2003, the North Beach Planning Study
, carried out by Aberdeen City Council (ACC), identified a site immediately opposite Pittodrie, as a possible location for the new stadium.
Issues, such as the development of a Football Academy/Training Facility using the land at Aulton/Linksfield was included and this would be jointly developed by ACC and Aberdeen Football Club. Issues of adjusting the Links Golf Course and Driving Range were also addressed. There was also consideration of how this development could be extended to provide regeneration of the area with hotels, restaurants and other facilities such as the development of a light rail transit system to allow supporters to travel by a range of modes to the stadium.
In 2008, the Aberdeen Arena Full Business Case
was produced by Gardiner & Theobald (independent consultants from Glasgow) as a partnership report commissioned by Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen Football Club. This study looked at two sites, Kings Links and Loirston Loch. The business case established that both sites were viable
, however, it indicated that Loirston was the ‘better value’ (cheaper) of the two options for development.
In 2009, in a study conducted by Don Supporters Together (then Aberdeen Supporters Trust), 81.2% of Aberdeen Fans said that the Kings Links site was their preferred location for a new stadium
In 2011, the planning application for the stadium on the Loirston Loch site was approved by Aberdeen City Council. The club also submitted a separate application for training facilities, to be shared with Cove Rangers, on an adjacent site. The application for training facilities was turned down in 2012 and the training site then allocated to the new Lochside Academy, a new school project for the south of the city.
The stadium planning approval remained live and the club could have begun developing the new stadium at any time. However, part of the Loirston site is owned by Aberdeen City Council (ACC) and the club and the council could not agree an arrangement for the sale or the lease of the land.
Following this, in May 2016, AFC announced their plans to seek planning approval for a Greenbelt site at Kingsford, seven miles outside of Aberdeen City and on the border with Aberdeenshire. This site co-locates both stadium and training facilities.
The site at Loirston Loch was identified through a close partnership between Aberdeen City Council and AFC. That partnership appears to have been abandoned by AFC as they unilaterally pursue the Kingsford location. The advantages of partnership are that the club may not have to fund all of the development – critical in a development which, by the clubs own words, has a large funding gap – and partnership increases the likelihood of choosing a site which meets the aspirations of both the city and the club. The advantages for the community are that the development can be progressed in a way that results in true community benefit – linking the work of the club, the Community Trust and other partners – with the work of the local authority – for the benefit of all.
Loirston is the current identified site in the Local Development Plan – and the site has been progressed through the local masterplanning process. It was identified by the ACC/AFC partnership as the preferred site. Should the approved site at Loirston, which received only 144 letters of objection (the Kingsford application has received close to 5,000 letters of objection), no longer be available to AFC then consideration should be given to the Kings Links location.
[caption id="attachment_2953" align="aligncenter" width="1080"]
The identified Kings Links site with a proposed stadium master plan shown.[/caption]
The site at Kings Links has been offered up for the stadium development since 2003 – when it appeared in the North Beach Planning Study. The location offers opportunities to keep the club close to their historic home and for transit routes, such as new access roads and light rail transit system to be developed.
In addition, the Seaton area of Aberdeen is a priority area – it is one of Scotland’s 20% most deprived communities
– and the economic impact of such a regeneration scheme, focused on the stadium and related facilities should not be underestimated. The city council has a locality plan in place for this area – focused on improving the lives of local people and investing to regenerate the area. These locality plans, such as the one for Seaton/Tillydrone, have been developed as part of the City Centre Master planning process and are part funded by the European Structural Fund (ESF).
The 2003 Beach Report and the Business Case both identify that reconfiguring the beach area is achievable and that the location is viable. It needs the partnership between the club and the city to be re-established for the good of everyone.
A Kings Links location would be compliant with both local and national planning policies. It would contribute to the regeneration of an area of Aberdeen which has been identified as in need. If AFC are serious about supporting the community then this would appear to be the perfect location for their new facilities. And what of the training pitches and facilities? There are opportunities here too – AFC could work with ACC to develop the facilities at Aulton/Linksfield, just along from Kings Links, into the community facilities that could be used to support the club and invest in the work of AFC Community Trust – this arrangement is as close to co-location as can be achieved in the heart of the city.
AFC have stated in recently submitted documents that the site at Kings Links would result in additional costs – these figures appear to be somewhat inflated to justify the selection of an out-of-city location at Kingsford – but even if these are realistic costs they should be seen as being distributed across the next 100+ years that the club would operate at the new location. As Scotland’s third city, a community stadium, close to the heart of the city is vital to ensure that the city remains relevant for the future.
This strategically important venue, close to the heart of the city, would bring additional events and income to Aberdeen – over and above those associated with football. Visitors would take to the city centre, contributing to the economy, and then attend the Kings Links location – a short 20 minute stroll from the centre. Visitors are highly unlikely to access the city centre when attending any event at Kingsford – a 1 hour 20 minute round trip from Aberdeen on current service buses (without heavy event traffic)
And the Kings Links location, based on the survey by Don Supporters Together
in 2009, is preferred by 81.2% of Aberdeen Supporters
. It would allow the sale of the existing Pittodrie site to fund the project – everyone wins: the club, the community and the city