Aberdeenshire Council is poised to take over the grounds of a Highland League football club for its new headquarters, it can be revealed.
The Press and Journal has learned that the local authority – the only council in Scotland to be based outside its own boundaries – is in discussions to buy Inverurie Loco Works FC’s base.
The existing stands and team facilities at Harlaw Park would be torn down and replaced with a modern office complex spanning the existing pitch and neighbouring Colony Park.
When the SNP-led Partnership group seized control of Aberdeenshire Council in a coup last summer, the leadership made replacing Woodhill House a priority.
The council’s current base on Aberdeen’s Westburn Road is currently one third empty.
The administration would not comment on the ambitious Harlaw Park scheme last night but it is understood that a detailed report about the Locos deal will be presented to councillors next month.
If backed by the policy and resources committee, funding would have to be identified in the authority’s capital plan budget.
A successful deal between the council and the football club would spark a chain reaction of developments across the town.
The Highland League side would relocate to a new multimillion-pound sports complex in the town – the Garioch Sports and Community Centre.
In Aberdeen meanwhile, Woodhill House would likely be knocked down to make way for housing.
Inverurie Locos was formed in 1902 by the workers of the Great North of Scotland Railway Company, who built the town’s locomotive works base. The team have played at Harlaw Park since their inception.
Club chairman Eddie Innes, confirmed talks were taking place and that if agreed, the move would be a “massive opportunity” for the club.
He said the facilities being proposed within the plans for the new sports centre, such as the 3G pitches, would provide a boost to the club.
He said: “We have had an inquiry but at this stage there is no hard offer on the table.
“The sale would be a massive opportunity for the club to move to new, modern facilities.”
Council chief executive Jim Savege said: “The council’s ambition is to relocate its Aberdeen headquarters to Inverurie.
“This would be subject to a detailed business case to demonstrate value for money, and follow considerable debate and approval from councillors.
“The business case is still in development and will come before councillors later this year.”
And a north-east property consultant with inside knowledge of the negotiations, confirmed that talks are underway.
The consultant, who did not wish to be named, added: “There are discussions going on – they are no mystery.”