Banchory was given the ideal Christmas present with confirmation that plans for its long-awaited sports centre have been given the final go-ahead.
Full planning permission has been granted for the £8.5million project at Hill of Banchory which will include a six-lane swimming pool, training pool, three- court sports hall, fitness room, two squash courts and accompanying changing and cafe areas.
The festive announcement was warmly welcomed in the town which has been eagerly awaiting approval for the sporting facilities.
Work on the new centre will start in the summer and it is expected to be built by the end of 2018.
The cost of the development will on the whole be met by Aberdeenshire Council, with a £700,000 contribution from Banchory Sports Village Trust after significant fundraising by the community.
A leaflet containing information on the new facilities and the next steps, is available at Banchory Library, the current sports centre and at Banchory Academy.
Education, learning and leisure committee chair, Councillor Alison Evison, said: “The granting of planning permission is a major step forward for what is a very exciting project that will give a real boost to sports groups in Banchory and the surrounding area.
“Local residents will now start to see things happening on the site behind Hill of Banchory Primary School – and work should start in the next six months or so.
“The current sports centre on Raemoir Road is being retained to complement this brand new facility and will be used to enhance the PE curriculum for our young people as well as continuing to support well-attended local sports clubs.”
Marr Area Committee chair, Councillor Moira Ingleby, said: “The new sports centre will be a welcome addition and really will be a facility for all.
“Local groups and users have been heavily involved in the development of the plans and the energetic support and fundraising by the community has raised a very impressive amount which will be used to enhance the new centre.
“Congratulations to everyone involved in this project – I look forward to seeing the final building.”
The sport village trust has so far raised £670,000.
Chairman Keith Mair said: “That wouldn’t have happened without the fantastic effort from all the clubs who have been strong supporters of what we’re doing.
“There has been an enormous contribution from the Banchory Ball Committee and on top of the community effort, there have been donations from individuals which have been hugely important in getting us to the total where we currently stand.
“It’s going to be a wonderfully comprehensive facility and the £700,000 the community has raised will enable us to get an enhancement to the standard facilities that would be provided.”
Local councillors, who have fought hard for the new centre, are delighted.
Councillor Karen Clark said: “Hopefully this is the final hurdle in what has been a marathon journey.
“This approval pushes us ever closer to the reality of achieving this community’s long-cherished project of a new pool and leisure facility at Hill of Banchory.
“It cannot be underestimated just how hard local people and groups have worked to raise the funds needed and I would like to pay tribute to their amazing efforts.
“I am looking forward to seeing the tenders going out early next year and then to see construction starting as soon as possible.”
Colleague Jill Webster said: “The granting of planning permission is a huge step forward in what has been a long journey towards the realisation of the Banchory Sports Village.
“We are now on the home run, with the wonderful fundraisers almost at their target of £700,000 community contribution, and the project now due to go out to tender.
“We shall see spades in the ground in 2017 which will be a dream come true.”
The news was also well received by Banchory Community Council.
Chair Mary Lennox told the Piper: “We look forward to seeing the building work started and to the doors being opened in December, 2018.
“We hope that there will be no further delays in the process and also hope that there may be scope for future expansion in the years to come.
“The community has worked hard to raise the £700,000 required by Aberdeenshire. £30,000 has still to be found and the community council would encourage all residents of Banchory to consider making a small donation to the project.
“If everyone in the town gave £5, the target would be met with ease.”