Councillors to lease ground for 'unique' skatepark for youngsters

Formartine area committee backed Ellon Wheel Park Group's asset transfer earlier this week.

Formartine area committee back Ellon Wheel Park Group’s assest transfer for ‘unique’ wheel park iStock

Councillors have agreed to lease ground in Ellon to group planning to bring a “unique” wheel park to the town for just £1 per month for the next 25 years.

Formartine area committee have backed Ellon Wheel Park Group’s assest transfer, who bid to develop the lower Gordon Park area earlier this year.

The development would see a 650-yard-long, all-in-one park created for skateboarders, mountain bikers, cyclists and BMX riders.

However, the Ellon group must secure all its funding before work can begin building the wheeled sports hub.

Community asset transfer documents revealed the whole project would cost almost £800,000.

Group chairman Colin Allanach attended the meeting to argue the case for the new facility.

He said: “Other towns and cities have skateparks and pump tracks, some even have circuits, but none have all three in a dedicated area.

“This is what makes Ellon’s proposed park so unique and a great selling point for our town and the Formartine area.

“There have been previous attempts to build skateparks and cycling facilities in Ellon which have fallen through for various reasons.

“This project is different in that major funds are available through SportScotland to build good quality facilities which can be designed for the users in mind and be of a quality that will last for many years.”

He added: “This is an opportunity that won’t come up again for a long time and we need to grasp it.”

Councillor Isobel Davidson said she has been a “long-time supporter” of plans for a skatepark in Ellon.

However she had hoped that the facility could be built in another location.

She said: “We are certainly in the stage now that we need new facilities in Ellon and we need things for young people to do.

“There needs to be a wider variety of facilities in the area for people of all ages and I know that there is quite a bit of enthusiasm for this.”

She added: “This has been delayed in one way or another for many years and I don’t want to delay it any longer.”

Fellow councillor Louise McAllister said the new wheel park would be welcomed by residents.

She explained: “We are in the middle of this cost of living crisis, we are recovering from Covid and we have families and young people who are really desperate for a facility that is free to use, open and inclusive.

“That is something that I think we should embrace and be very proud of.”

However, councillors Gillian Owen and John Crawley said they were still undecided about the proposal.

Councillor Owen said: “On the one hand there’s no question of the need for this type of venture but is Gordon Park the best place?

“I wonder, what will our decision mean for other parks in and around Aberdeenshire because maybe we could be setting a precedent.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Crawley said the new facility would help to attract tourists to the town but he still had reservations about toilet access and parking.

Mid-Formartine councillor Jenny Nicol thought the plan was “inspiring” and could help youngsters with their wellbeing.

She said: “I don’t believe we can underestimate the importance for young people to have an accessible space, not just to exercise, but a place to meet with friends in a social setting and to have a place to be in our communities.”

Councillor Nicol added the new facility could allow the wheel park group to engage with local schools in the future and the project could “bring the community together”.

Councillor Anne Stirling noted that there needed to be forward planning to ensure everyone knew what would happen to the site after the 25-year lease is up.

Councillor Davidson moved a motion to approve the asset transfer and it was unanimously agreed by the committee.

The group’s application for planning permission is currently awaiting determination.

Members are hoping to open the Ellon Wheel Park in 2023 to tie in with Glasgow hosting the Cycling World Championships.

The proposal has received support from Gold medal-winning Paralympian Neil Fachie and Olympic silver medalist Neah Evans.

Evans said she “wholeheartedly” supported the plan.

Meanwhile, Fachie said the wheel park was a “huge opportunity to really develop cycling in the north-east” and added it was a “win-win for everyone concerned”.

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