A Highland League football club could go to court to stop affordable housing for disabled people being built next to its ground.
Deserted Banks o’ Dee care home looks destined to become flats for people with complex care needs, years after it closed in scandal.
Residents were left to find somewhere new to live as the urine-soaked, 60-bed home shut in 2019 after damning inspections.
Now, Aberdeen City Council has given developer Mosaic Microliving permission to convert it into 24 flats.
Housing plans could ‘threaten club’s existence’
The neighbouring fitness centre and Banks o’ Dee FC, whose home ground is the adjoined Spain Park, both objected.
Management fear the single-track road won’t cope with extra traffic.
And they claim the housing would “jeopardise [the club’s] existence”.
Another 14 objections were also lodged.
But their pleas did not convince the SNP and Lib Dem majority of councillors on the city planning committee, who approved the conversion.
But there could yet be another leg to play – this time in the courtroom.
Banks o’ Dee president: ‘We are taking legal advice’ on flats plan
Soon after, president of the Highland League side Brian Winton told The P&J that Banks o’ Dee is considering challenging the planning permission in the courts.
Banks o’ Dee own the access road and light it during operational hours. The care home was allowed to use the lane, but it is understood this was agreed on the basis the site remained a care home.
Asked if he would look at rescinding access for the housing, Mr Winton said: “We are going to take legal advice over the next phase of this…
“We are a charity, so we don’t want to be spending all our money on fighting legal cases.
“We need to be careful how we spend our money – but there is some room for legal challenge.
“We want safe access and egress for our site.”
Banks o’ Dee flats ‘jeopardise existence’ of sports club
Club president Mr Winton claimed Hillcrest’s other Abbotswell Road housing was already a cause of rogue parking in the Spain Park car park.
He and fitness centre boss Iain Watson described the chaos caused on their little access road on matchdays.
The turn-off into the care home grounds has been blocked off, denying buses a place to turn.
It has left school kids walking down the painted walkway at the side of the long driveway on weekdays as they are dropped off by bus on Abbotswell Road.
‘Huge buses forced to reverse along narrow road’
Mr Winton added: “I do worry that construction traffic coming down that road will constrain us as a business.
“The current developer has blocked off the access way to the home so I am now having to reverse 57-seater buses down a small track, with children walking to get buses at the end of our road. It is causing safety issues.
“This is the only charity community hub in the area creating a safe space for children of all ages and gender to participate in a range of different sports.
“We need to protect this facility, not jeopardise its existence.”
Has the council got it wrong?
Banks o’ Dee, which runs the sports centre as a not-for-profit charity, fears residents in the flats could ultimately end up griping about noise from the football ground and early morning fitness classes.
They had already lawyered up ahead of the planning decision.
Solicitor Hazel Brown of Burness Paull argued that council chiefs had got their wording wrong in accompanying legal documents.
A bridge too far?
The wrangle revolves around the condition that developers need to build a new footbridge to the site.
Planners say the link would be needed to protect pedestrians and wheelchairs users who would otherwise have to use the narrow road to get there.
Ms Brown urged them instead to require the crossing over the burn went up before the conversion work is allowed to begin.
She claimed the city council would be going against recent legal cases for building to happen without the bridge already in place.
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Hillcrest doesn’t yet own the land the crossing would be built on, which added to concerns.
But council development management manager Daniel Lewis reassured councillors that the contract was sound.
The condition demands the footbridge – or another council-approved means of safe pedestrian access – before people can be moved in.
Other “not unsafe” options, suggested by roads planners at the council meeting, include a potential pedestrian crossing across the Banks o’ Dee car park.
But this would rely on agreement from the sports club, currently eyeing legal avenues to halt the flats, too.
How the plans could save city cash
Hillcrest housing association is to take on the redeveloped care home, backed by city social care bosses.
It’s a project that could save the taxpayer thousands of pounds a year, by ending the need to send people outside of Aberdeen to find a home.
The city health and social care partnership budgeted to spend £600,000 on out of area placements this year, and another £350,000 before April 2024.
Bradley Craig, an architect for the developer, said: “Having a home is a basic human right.
“We want people with disabilities to be able to live in our city in appropriate accommodation.”
Concerns too were raised about the size of the “rabbit hutch” flats that are to be built in the building’s shell.
But new emphasis in planning laws on reusing, not demolishing, existing buildings meant the smaller rooms were accepted by officials.