Aberdeen FC’s chairman has welcomed a council officer’s backing of a transport plan for the club’s proposed £50 million stadium.

Speaking to the Evening Express after a crunch meeting, Stewart Milne welcomed the backing and also said it was telling that business representatives and a university boss had spoken out in favour of the Kingsford development.

However, objectors told councillors they believed the project is unsuitable for green belt land and the road network would struggle to cope.

They urged councillors to refuse permission for the scheme when a decision is made at a Council meeting at the Town House on January 29.

Some 21 speakers, including Dons boss Derek McInnes and No Kingsford Stadium leaders, had their say on the proposal at a three-hour pre-determination hearing at the Town House yesterday. An initial pre-determination hearing was held in September.

The club shelved the application in October so it could gather more information in support of the project.

As reported by the Evening Express last week, some of that detail related to how supporters would leave the 20,000-capacity stadium at the end of the game.

At the meeting, Aberdeen City Council’s roads officer Mark Wilkie said: “Since the first hearing, the roads team has been provided with a comprehensive response (from the club).

“Recent work has been done to justify the proposed 3m-wide footbridge (over the A944) being wide enough to accommodate demand, which will be greatest after the match.

“The matter investigated is not an exact science.

“However, we consider that enough evidence has been provided to justify a 3m-wide crossing.”

He added that the club had provided more details related to how vehicles would enter and exit the site – both on matchdays and non-matchdays.

“In summary, I conclude that (the roads team) support this development proposal, provided that appropriate conditions are attached to any consent provided.”

After the meeting, Mr Milne said: “It’s a major boost, because we all know that roads and transport are important parts of any planning application and not having the roads team behind us would have made it a bigger challenge (to get permission).”

He added: “This justifies our decision to take the application off the table in October. That has paid dividends and hopefully it will come through in the decision on January 29.”

Speaking after the meeting, Diane Reid, of No Kingsford Stadium, told the Evening Express issues around the footbridge did not change the fact that the land was not a suitable location for a stadium.

She added: “With everyone leaving the stadium at the same time, it is going to be bedlam after the match.

“There are many other issues related to transport that have not been addressed properly that the council still has to look at.

“January 29 is D-day and I will be here for that.”

At the meeting, Robert Gordon University principal Ferdinand von Prondzynski said the stadium would help the university attract more students and bar owner Paul Clarkson said city-centre firms would still be able to benefit from trade from Dons fans on matchdays.

And Dons chairman, Mr Milne welcomed that support. He said: “It’s easy for Aberdeen FC to come forward and say how important this is for the club and the city but people would say ‘you would say that’.

“Having that support from others reinforces how much-needed these facilities are, not just for the future of the city but for the future image of the city.”

Dons manager Derek McInnes made an impassioned speech in favour of the application at the meeting.

“I have been pressing for better facilities for my players and the fans since my first day in the job (in 2013). Some things are too important to give up on. This project is one of those things for me,” he said.

Among those speaking against the proposal was Heather Brock, director of No Kingsford Stadium.

She said: “Kingsford is an unsustainable location. It would be development of green belt land resulting in unsustainable transport patterns impacting on congestion.

“Councillors – you are stewards of the green belt and environment of Aberdeen and are duty-bound to protect it.

“Policies within the local development plan are clearly set out to protect our green belt. There is no justification in this application to merit deviation from the development plan. I strongly urge the councillors to refuse this application.”

Westhill resident Heather Cook said: “I consider Kings Links (near Aberdeen beach) to be the ideal location for a new stadium.”

Originally published Evening Express – 18 January 2018