People power has forced council chiefs into a U-turn on plans to provide play equipment for youngsters at a multimillion-pound sports centre.
Children in Macduff had been facing the prospect of sharing facilities with the local primary school amid safety fears about the site at the town’s Myrus area.
The play area was dropped from the proposals for £12.7million sports complex when it emerged it would be near a car park and access road.
But now plans are being put in place to move a 4G all-weather football pitch at the site several feet to create enough space for play equipment.
A local petition launched to save the play park has gathered almost 1,400 signatures.
Last night, Kim Adams, who started the petition, said the move was a victory for the community.
She said: “The people of Macduff really supported the petition and I can’t thank them enough.
“We were hurt and upset that the play park was removed due to the numerous public consultations over the last couple of years. It was suddenly changed without us knowing.
“The community really rallied around. In the 35 years that there’s been a play park there, there has never been an accident with a child being hit by a car, and it has been used for things from picnics to galas. Not having a play park would have been a huge miss for the town.”
Local councillor Hamish Partridge said the “way forward” was finally clear.
But a spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council said the play park proposals would still need to go through the correct planning process.
“There’s been various things said about the safety concerns,” Mr Partridge said.
“But what we’ve agreed now is that they need to deliver the play park. We can move the full-size pitch back and create a space, roughly where the equipment was originally placed.
“This will come forward as a planning application, I would just hope that local councillors will support it and we get the facility delivered. This is what the community want.”
Fellow local councillor Mark Findlater described the council’s proposal as “another option” for the Myrus complex.
“There’s been a lot going on with it,” he said.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to the council officers to get the information together so that we as councillors can make an informed decision.
“What I am really pleased about is that local people have been coming forward with their own ideas, putting forward a lot of information to try to help.
“We have to listen to the public and we are listening.”
A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said: “Officers had very positive discussions with ward members who asked us to consider a number of options including moving the grass football pitch to the east of the site.
“This would allow play equipment to be accommodated as part of the Myrus development.
“This will form part of the formal planning process and when the planning application is determined by the area committee the members will also consider options for the play park.”
The facilities at Myrus will include seating for football spectators, floodlights and a community centre.
The proposals for new sports facilities had been in the pipeline for years and a breakthrough was finally achieved in March last year when supermarket giant Tesco agreed to part-fund the project.
The scheme had been thrown into doubt weeks earlier when the retailer – which had pledged to develop land to replace existing facilities as part of proposals to build a new store – pulled out of the deal.