Work started on Friday on a long-awaited £12.7million scheme to provide new sports facilities for two neighbouring north-east towns.
The first turf was cut in two ceremonies at Banff and Macduff, marking the culmination of many years of campaigning by local residents.
The existing facilities at Banff’s Canal Park will be revamped and indoor and outdoor improvements will be provided at the town’s academy, including football pitches, running and cycling tracks and new landscaping.
New sports pitches will also be provided in Macduff, where an existing pavilion will be refurbished.
John Cox, chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s Banff and Buchan area committee, hailed the “milestone” yesterday.
“This is a day that a lot of people thought would never happen,” he said.
“This is a milestone in the transformation of a community that has been hit so many times in the past by closures and losses of jobs.
“This is what we have been waiting for, and I’m sure that on the back of this greater investment will come.”
The funding for the scheme is the result of a deal between Tesco and the local authority.
The supermarket giant pulled out of an agreement to build a store in Banff earlier this year – having previously committed to purchasing the common good land at Canal Park and providing new sports infrastructure.
Many in the town feared the new facilities would never be provided, but the two sides announced that a “termination agreement” had been agreed in March.
Last night, Macduff councillor Mark Findlater said he was particularly gratified to see the start of work in the town.
“This was one of the main reasons I put myself forward to be a councillor three years ago,” he said.
“We have got there now, but so many people thought this would never happen – especially after Tesco pulled out.
“We kept the faith and kept at it and the people of Macduff and Banff are now going to be able to use these facilities in the not-too-distant future.”