Read the email here), but we have summarised the main points:
The original proposal was for 6 training pitches with a car park and pavilion…This proposal was submitted, unusually, via Angela Scott’s (ACC Chief Executive) office, although there seems to be some dubiety about who submitted it. The planners opinion on the training pitches was that there were significant constraints…. , ‘but that whilst we may be able to support a low impact academy/recreational development (with significant public access) which would sit unobtrusively in this area of open landscape, that there would be a significant body of work required to come to this conclusion’. Meaning… that they were of the opinion that they may be able to recommend the training pitches, however there would be several obstacles to overcome…. ‘excessive scale and prominence is likely to be a significant issue with negative sustainability and over all environmental impacts’. THIS IS THE PLANNERS OPINION OF A SMALL DEVELOPMENT OF 6 TRAINING PITCHES AND SOME MODESTLY SCALED BUILDINGS!!! A MAYBE – BUT NOT EVEN A DEFINITE MAYBE! The senior planner then goes on to give his opinion on the proposal for a stadium as well. He starts with ‘the scale, type and form of development now proposed is way beyond what we are likely to be in a position to reasonably support’. He then talks about the proposal in relation to the Local Development Plan (LDP): ‘Even promoting the scheme though the next local plan, which is 5 years away, is unlikely to pass though the scrutiny process’. This means that he felt that this land would be very unlikely to be re-assigned away from its Greenbelt status. The planner then details the issues under various headings:
Greenbelt and Transportation‘Policy only supports certain limited and specified development proposals, the scheme proposed would not fit into any of those categories, even by stretching the imagination’. ‘At this stage it is difficult to see how the proposals could address the Scottish Planning Policy, the strategic development plan or the local development plan (adopted or emerging)’
Landscape‘Would likely appear an alien presence in its context to the detriment of the sense of place and buffer to the urban area. The character of the area would be transformed from fields to that dominated by a stadium and all that goes with it’.
Light Pollution‘Particularly through use in the evening of floodlights, seeing visibility from a large area’.
Physical‘For all intents and purposes you would never see the land as anything other than fields, as it is long since regenerated and been used for this purpose’. Part of his conclusion states ‘the earlier proposal for a training facility might have been able to navigate the required assessment process, such that we could potentially support a well considered and designed scheme. However there are severe doubts that we could justify the extended scheme to both increase the training/academy element whilst incorporating a large stadium and all that goes with that’. So to sum up, we believe he is saying ‘we might have been able to recommend 6 pitches and a couple of buildings, but there is no way we could see us being able to recommend even an increased training academy, never mind a massive football stadium. These e-mails are written in April 2016. Since that time NOTHING HAS CHANGED. The land is still Greenbelt. The land is still not zoned for development in the 2017 LDP. AFC have, for the past 18 months, been filling the Evening Express and P & J with all sorts of emotive stories and tales of woe about Pittodrie falling to bits, Derek leaving if he doesn’t get the training facilities (or a decent offer from a.n.other club it would appear), numbers falling to a record low of 8,500 etc., etc. This is not about football – it’s about planning. It could be a proposal for an Ikea, a hospital, a school, an incinerator – they would all be subject to the same rules. They would have to justify deviation from the Local Development Plan and Greenbelt policy. Many of the statutory consultees, including the Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Planning Authority and Aberdeenshire Council, are clear in their concerns that this development is in breach of planning policies. Aberdeen City Council and AFC have been in very close contact throughout this process. AFC will have been told this is going to fail, yet they have ploughed on regardless. Why? It is widely believed that AFC have shown contempt for both the public in general (especially the local Westhill community) and for the planning process. Many people have voiced concerns about the collusion between AFC and the City Council and with regard to the amount of pressure AFC are being seen to be placing on the Council via the local press. This is tantamount to bullying. Aberdeen City Council must now uphold its legal, social and moral obligations, and its duty of care, as a respected planning authority. Thus the planners’ report is greatly anticipated by many parties, and each will have different questions depending on the report. These include:
- If the planners recommend refusal, why will AFC have continued to relentlessly pursue an application that they had been told would not pass scrutiny?
- If the planners recommend approval, what has changed since they said “Policy only supports certain limited and specified development proposals, the scheme proposed would not fit into any of those categories, even by stretching the imagination’? The policy has not changed. The land has not changed. The scheme proposed has not changed. Nothing has changed.