Council axes plans to site 3G pitch in park

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Council chiefs have been forced to go back to the drawing board in their bid to find a suitable site for a long-awaited 3G sports pitch in Peebles.

Scottish Borders Council’s executive committee has agreed to scrap a planning application lodged last year for a full-sized, all-weather pitch to be created at Victoria Park, on Common Good land to the south-east of the town.

The search for a site began in earnest three years ago and, in the interim, no fewer than 24 possible locations have been considered.

Victoria Park, off Kingsmeadows Road, was identified by the executive committee last year as its “least worse option”, and £1.7m was set aside in the authority’s capital plan for the project, with the bulk of that cash due to be spent in the current financial year.

However, that choice triggered a backlash of objections from townsfolk keen to preserve a treasured green amenity space.

An action group was formed, and a 1,700-signature petition was raised demanding that Victoria Park be spared from development.

In a report to last week’s meeting, Rob Dickson, the council’s corporate transformation and services director, said: “Since the inception, there have been significant issues in identifying a suitable site for a full-sized synthetic pitch in Peebles.

“There continues to be significant public interest, both positive and negative, in the planning application for the new pitch at Victoria Park and difficulties faced by the Tweeddale councillors in respect of this issue.

“These councillors have concluded that the planning application for the pitch at Victoria Park should be withdrawn in order to allow alternative sites to be further investigated and to provide adequate time for them to consult with the wider community of Peebles.”

Mr Dickson reminded the executive that delivering a full-sized 3G artificial pitch in Peebles within two years had been an explicit condition insisted on by the national agency Sportscotland when it awarded a £500,000 grant to improve sports facilities at Peebles High School in 2013.

“There is a risk that if a 3G pitch is not delivered in Peebles, this council will lose credibility with Sportscotland, and it may be less willing to fund future progammes,” said Mr Dickson.

“Our officers are continuing to seek to remove this risk in discussions with Sportscotland.”

The executive unanimously agreed to withdraw the Victoria Park planning bid and to instruct officers to submit a further report next month “setting out the way forward for the Peebles pitch”.