For those people not living in and around Aberdeen it is reasonable not to know of the controversy over Aberdeen Football Club’s proposed new stadium to the east of Westhill, but within the Aberdeen City boundary.
Let me first of all nail our colours to the mast; we are wholeheartedly in favour of the new stadium, and we also have five of our team who live in Westhill who are in favour too, which contrary to the “No” campaign does not make us at all unusual.
Why is a new stadium needed? The simple answer is that Pittodrie, the club’s home since 1903 is now not fit for purpose and if the club wants to continue playing European football under the auspices of UEFA, then the measures demanded by UEFA would see the stadium capacity fall to below 15,000. That’s not scaremongering, simply the information passed to us following visits by UEFA delegates to the club. Why not re-develop Pittodrie? Why not indeed. The simple answer to that as far as we can see is that the opportunity was lost once the sites on which Gray’s timber yard and the gasworks were sold and flats were built on them. The footprint simply isn’t big enough to fulfil all of the club’s requirements. Whether they should have bought these sites is irrelevant, they didn’t and we are where we are.
So why does a football club needing a new stadium have an impact on the local economy? Well for a start most people underestimate the impact a football club can have on the economy, the club’s spending power, money spent by players and fans alike supports a whole raft of businesses. But that aside it has to be viewed as part of the whole North East of Scotland’s future. Three years ago the area was hit by an oil recession and had the job losses we endured been in London, Birmingham or Manchester there would have been emergency taskforces by the dozen pumping billions of pounds into the economy. What we got from then PM David Cameron was him saying that a low oil price suited the UK economy. My view from that is that basically we are on our own and we the locals will have to resolve the problems of replacing lost oil revenue. The oil industry is not dead but it will at some point die or massively contract just as the Granite, Fishing and Paper industries in the North East have died or massively contracted.
So what have we to offer? Well tourism for one and no matter what you think of Donald Trump, his golf course at Menie is an attraction and is bringing golfers to the city. We have as we speak the construction of the new Exhibition centre with its 18,000 capacity which should see us compete with the rest of the UK for top entertainment acts. We now have at long last the new road which bypasses the city and will see journey times massively reduced and we can therefore expect more people and businesses seeking to locate along the new road. What message would a “No” to the stadium send out to the population as a whole? Basically it would be that the narrow minded population of the area don’t want progress or at the very least don’t want progress if it’s at all near their backyard. The irony of these protesters in Westhill who say we cannot have erosion of the Greenbelt, is that ALL of their house were built on land that was once Greenbelt.
This is one fight the City of Aberdeen cannot afford to lose if we are at all going to be seen as a forward thinking, robust, enthusiastic and reliable area in which to do business. The stadium simply cannot fail or I’m afraid we can forget about any prosperous future if people are going to be put off making applications if a few very selfish people are allowed to continually block progress.