Plans for an £8.5million sports centre in Aberdeenshire have been given the final go-ahead.
Banchory Sports Village, which has been in the pipeline for years, has been granted full planning permission – a decision last night hailed as the “best Christmas gift the community could have hoped for”.
Aberdeenshire Council is spending £7.8million on the centre, but locals committed to raising an additional £700,000 for the “extras” – such as an additional lane in the pool and another squash and sports court.
Over the last two years, they have tirelessly raised cash and supported events to ensure their centre has the very best facilities.
Last night, the Banchory Sports Village Trust revealed their fundraising team is now just £30,000 short of their overall goal.
It is hoped construction can start next summer, paving the way for the centre to open as soon as 2018.
Banchory councillor Karen Clark said she was thrilled the project was finally moving forward.
“I’m delighted – it’s the best Christmas present we could wish for at the moment,” she said.
“Surely this is the last hurdle in what has been a marathon. It is so well deserved and the fact that the community has raised
so much money towards it is absolutely fantastic.
“We look forward to the tenders going out early next year and then seeing it become a reality.
“We have been so desperate to see this and people have felt a bit sceptical about it, but this just brings it another step closer.”
The council lodged a planning application for the sports centre, complete with a cafe, at Hill of Banchory in September.
The plans for the sports village include a six-lane swimming pool, a training pool, a three-court sports hall, fitness suite, squash courts, changing facilities and reception.
Banchory residents have been calling for upgraded sports facilities in the community for years, with the current swimming pool at Banchory Academy only 20m in length.
James Knowles, fundraising manager for the trust, said last night: “Obtaining planning permission is a step in the right direction. I understand the next move is to go to tender. Everything takes time, it has been probably over two years now for us.”
He said it had been a “team effort” that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the local community and “generous” individual donations.
Mr Knowles added: “Really it has been a team job so far. It has just proved that it is a facility Banchory wants.
“Progress is good, everybody can sit back and say ‘hey, we are just about there’. Some ideas are still being progressed. We just hope that we can put the thing to bed.”
Councillor Linda Clark described it as a “long-time coming” and praised the community for getting behind the project.
She said: “We are looking forward to getting the new pool and all the other new sports facilities, it is going to be wonderful. It has been a long wait, but all the better for it – it is just tremendous news.”
Fellow Banchory councillor Jill Webster added: “Some people still don’t believe it is going to happen. It has been a long held ambition for over 20 years.
“Now that it has gone through planning it can go to the tender stage, so we are hoping construction will begin early 2017.”
Announcing the decision in a council report, the local authority’s head of planning and building standards, Robert Gray, said:
“The proposed leisure centre is a much-needed community facility, proposed on land allocated in the Banchory settlement statement for community uses.”