Aberdeen are fast approaching D-Day in their ambitious plans for a stadium and football academy on the outskirts of the city.
The first month of the New Year is always a pivotal one for the country’s top football clubs, signalling the start of the road to possible glory at Hampden Park for the season finale – the Scottish Cup Final.
In Aberdeen FC ’s case this season the visit of Championship challengers St Mirren will provide a stern but test as Derek McInnes looks for a swift return to the National Stadium in May.
However, it is matters off the field that will set January 2018 apart for the Pittodrie club as, by the conclusion of the month, a final decision on whether the ambitious plans for new training and community facilities and a stadium at Kingsford will eventually be given the green light nearly twenty years after plans to relocate from Pittodrie were first mooted.
As AFC Project Director for Kingsford, Raymond Edgar, explains, the club’s decision to request a postponement for the submission of the plans in October, while frustrating, was the correct one in his opinion.
He said: “While we had been hoping for a decision on our application before Christmas, we now have an agreed timetable with the council which will allow the proposals to be fully considered by councillors next month.
“Following the deferral in October, we have worked with the council planning officers to provide further reassurance that the club’s approach to selecting Kingsford complies with legal requirements.
“Additionally, we have undeniably demonstrated there are no other suitable, available and sequentially preferable sites within the city which could accommodate the development.
“In particular, we believe we have, once and for all, demonstrated that the proposals cannot be delivered at either King’s Links or Loirston.
“As requested by the council’s economic development team, we have also provided further analysis which shows that the economic benefits of the development to the region are even greater than previously estimated.
“The club recognises that the delay has been frustrating for all those who continue to back our plans, but it’s vital that we have the best chance of securing the right decision for the club, the city, the region, our fans and the thousands of individuals from all communities who benefit from the activities of the Trust.
“The additional information will now be the subject of consultation. Councillors will be given an opportunity to ask questions on the additional information at the second pre-determination hearing on January 17, so that they will have all the information which they require to enable the application to be determined before the end of the month.
“It will be a sad day when the time comes to finally walk out of Pittodrie for the last time but, it is an extremely old facility that is long past its ‘sell by’ date and costs a significant amount of money each year for essential maintenance in order to pass its safety certificate to allow us to stage football matches.
“On top of that, we are operating under a UEFA dispensation to allows us to host European games but will not be allowed to continue indefinitely.
“As the country’s third largest city, we need a stadium that demonstrates ambition, is fit for purpose for the 21 st century and beyond and one which boasts top class training and community facilities that will assist markedly in attracting top talent to the north east.”
The planning application to Aberdeen City Council for the 24.5 hectare site at Kingsford includes community and sports facilities; a football academy comprising outdoor pitches, pavilion and ancillary buildings, and a 20,000-seat capacity stadium along with associated access roads, parking, landscaping and engineering works.
Subject to planning approval, the proposals will see more than £50 million invested to create a new home for the Dons; provide a base for the significant expansion of the award-winning work of Aberdeen FC Community Trust on social inclusion, participation in sport and healthy lifestyles for all ages across the region; and create a focal point for footballing excellence in the north of Scotland.
The project would be delivered in two phases, with the community and sports facilities and football academy constructed first and the stadium in the second phase.