Big reveal for £17m Catto Park redevelopment plans

Long-awaited plans for the proposed redevelopment of Peterhead’s Lord Catto Park were revealed at a public meeting last night.

More than 100 residents flocked to Peterhead Football Club’s Balmoor Stadium for the big reveal of architectural impressions.

The working group spearheading the ‘unique’ project - made up of officials from the football club, Aberdeenshire Council and various Peterhead community and sports groups - estimates the cost of the redevelopment will be £17m.

A exhaustive presentation from consultancy firm PMR Leisure charted the history of the proposal, from Peterhead FC’s original idea to last night’s unveiling.

The site would become a centre of sporting excellence with new dedicated synthetic pitches for football and hockey, a revamped athletics track, a boxing gym and a ‘community learning enviroment.’

A centrepiece of the project is a new integrated facility for the Willowbank adult training centre.

The entrance way of the proposed Catto Park development, seen from Balmoor Terrace.

The entrance way of the proposed Catto Park development, seen from Balmoor Terrace.

PMR director Penny Lochhead said: “What we’ve discovered is that what we’re doing here at Catto Park is unique in the UK.

“It may indeed be unique in the whole of Europe.”

She added the working group hoped the project would become ‘a hub for all.’

Aberdeenshire Council have been closely involved with each step of the project to date.

What the interior of the proposed Catto Park development could look like.

What the interior of the proposed Catto Park development could look like.

A ‘feasibility study’ was conducted last year before the local authority and Peterhead FC jointly funded PMR to come on board and draft a business strategy.

Now the working group will begin the ardous process of securing financial backers for the project.

Negotiations with Aberdeenshire Council for futher funding for feasibility and costing work will kick this process off.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the presentation was the revelation Balmoor’s existing main stand would be demolitioned and incorporated in a single new structure.

It was previously thought the new facilities would stand alongside Peterhead’s ground.

The new building would run the length of the current stand with a footbridge connecting the site to Balmoor Terrace.

A show of hands following the presentation saw the vast majority of residents in favour of the project.

Concerns were raised about ownership of the land, Peterhead Football Club’s place in the management structure and the overall impact on Peterhead town centre.

Bruce Buchan, a member of the Peterhead Community Council, challenged PMR to prove the land is the council’s to lease to the working group.

He also demanded a document to be drawn up guaranteeing the people of Peterhead there would be no ‘legal jiggery pokery’ which would allow the facility to fall into the hands of a private company.

Mr Buchan was assured by working group member Stephen Bruce - who has been chosen as a Commonwealth baton bearer - that he could trust the members of the group to uphold the community’s interests.

Aberdeenshire councillor for Central Buchan Norman Smith added that any ‘legal jiggery pokery’ or attempt at an asset transfer would cause backers to pull their funding. Cllr Smith has been intimately involved with a similar project in Mintlaw.

Further concerns were raised by another member of the community council, Peterhead resident Stephen Calder.

In a heated debate, Mr Calder challenged Stephen Bruce’s suggestion that Catto Park could become a new hub for Peterhead.

Mr Calder told the Buchanie: “To me, this attitude goes some way to explain the problems of the town.

“Instead of working to renovate and regenerate the historic heart of the town, some are happy to abandon it to deterioration.”

The working group are now finalising costings and will soon begin to seek backers for the project.

A representative of Michael Laird Architects, the Edinburgh-based firm involved in the project, estimated construction work would take 18 months once funding is secured.

This could impact upon Peterhead Football Club’s use of Balmoor Stadium.