ASN centre plans delayed over fears of 'fairly catastrophic' pipeline incident

The OaKley Play and Life-Skills Centre could be built on land at Coneyhatch to the north of the town.

ASN centre plans in Stonehaven delayed over fears of ‘fairly catastrophic’ pipeline incident LDRS

Plans to create a “flagship centre of excellence” for additional support needs near Stonehaven have been delayed.

The OaKley Play and Life-Skills Centre could be built on land at Coneyhatch to the north of the town.

But members of the Kincardine and Mearns area committee decided to defer the charity’s proposal earlier today.

Despite council planners recommending the proposal be refused, councillors argued there was a need for a facility like this but one big hurdle is in the way.

Before the meeting, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) objected to the development as the site is close to a “major hazard” – the Ineos Forties oil pipeline.

But while they said the probability of an incident on the site was low, they were concerned a “fairly catastrophic” event could occur if the line were to crack.

More than 100 families across the north-east had given their support to the proposal. They believed the site would provide a “safe place offering understanding, education and real support to ASN families”.

But Aberdeenshire Council planning chief Gregor Spence said the site had “fallen short” of the local authority’s expectations.

He stated that it didn’t meet the council’s 20-minute neighbourhood policy and was “not appropriate” given the risk of the pipeline.

An artist impression of the proposed OaKley Play and Life-Skills Centre. Photo: LDRS.

The local authority’s roads team were also opposed to the plan as the Coneyhatch location was not well connected to Stonehaven.

They were worried families visiting the site would heavily depend on cars instead of using public transport or just walking instead.

The planner added: “We encourage the development and want to see this type of development, but not at this site.”

OaKley founder and director Amanda Greig spoke at the meeting in Stonehaven to fight for the centre.

She said: “I’m a parent of a child with additional support needs (ASN).

“The journey we have been through as a family over the last few years has left me absolutely determined to never let anyone feel that loneliness, isolation and exclusion.

“This project is not just a building, it’s a lifeline that’s desperately needed.”

Ms Greig told the committee that Coneyhatch was “ideally suited” for young people with additional needs.

She also explained that she has spent the last three years working on the project to ensure it was designed specifically for the needs of young people.

The OaKley team previously got planning consent to build a centre at Chapelton. But the cost of the project spiralled to almost £1m and unfortunately the plans fell apart.

The charity boss added: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we cannot replicate anywhere else.

“Without Coneyhatch, there is no OaKley.”

After urging the council to work with the team, she added: “We simply won’t ever get a chance like this again.”

Stonehaven councillor Dawn Black backed the proposal, despite admitting she was “a little bit worried” about its location.

But, she wondered if the HSE could give more information about their reason for refusing the proposal.

After a short adjournment, officers informed councillors that the HSE “can be and would be” supportive of providing more details on the matter.

Members agreed to defer the application to allow the HSE to explain their objection and present their case against the site.

However, the OaKley team face a long wait as their application won’t be back before the committee until they meet again in September.

Speaking after the meeting, Linda Cross of developers Antares Property Development said the OaKley team were “pleased” that the road issues had been dismissed.

She added: “There’s clearly support for what we are trying to achieve.

“The problem is policy does not cover unique examples and that is one of the issues that we have here.

“I’m pretty confident that HSE can be discussed rationally.”

While surveyor Ally Steel of Inspired Design & Development Ltd said they would “wait for September eagerly”.

If approved, the centre will offer drop-in sessions, respite, social groups, early years programmes, school sessions and ASN training for parents and professionals.

It will also provide care and support for children and young people aged from two to 18 years.

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