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Council considering handing ‘underfunded’ sports pitches over to communities

Members of the Turriff Rugby Football Club Mens and Ladies teams.
Members of the Turriff Rugby Football Club Mens and Ladies teams.

Pitches and sport facilities across Aberdeenshire could be handed-over to communities in an effort to save the council thousands of pounds.

The authority has said it no longer has the finances to maintain them to a high level and needs an urgent alternative.

Its culture and sports committee met yesterday to discuss a plan to create “local pitch user hubs” and encourage communities to operate them.

Members heard many facilities had been “desperately underfunded” in recent years – but also of the success some groups have already made of taking on their running.

At present, the council spends in the region of £900 per pitch each year on basic maintenance of the surfaces.

But “typical costs” for maintaining high quality pitches sit at the far higher figure of £5,200 per year.

Councillors heard the authority’s landscape department “don’t have the budget established to run high quality and highly competitive pitches”.

North Kincardine councillor Colin Pike said: “Some areas should be given the community or a private organisation as we don’t have the funds to run them to the best of their ability.

“Many of the pitches have been desperately underfunded in recent years.”

Turriff councillor Alastair Forsyth highlighted the work of Turriff Rugby Football Club as an “exemplar example of community work in action”.

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Set up last year by a group of friends, they began coaching and became Scottish Rugby Union affiliated.

Now, after a year of working with the council, community groups and the Turriff Show Committee, they have secured space at the Haughs ground to create Turriff’s first rugby pitch.

Club president John Hester said: “With this new space we can do more womens, mens and youth rugby and have plans to expand out community focused club to offer mixed ability sessions too.

“It’s been a long journey but now we can make great use of this beautiful space.

“The posts will go up in early February and we’re hoping to have a game there in the next few months.”

A spokesman for Live life Aberdeenshire said the group deserved “a huge amount of credit” for the collaborative project, having worked alongside the club since 2018 to establish a ground they can “call home”.

Councillor Forsyth said Turriff’s efforts “demonstrate that communities can turn their visions into reality by cooperating in partnerships and working relationships”.

He also praised community efforts in Rothienorman, where locals operate a Scottish Football Association-standard pitch operated by the community.

Other councillors highlighted work in Methlick and Fetterangus, before agreeing to explore other options for pitch hubs and external funding in the future.

Mr Forsyth said the standard of the community-run pitches was at “a different level” to that of council pitches and that “this is something that should certainly be explored more in the future”.

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