Friday, 10 October 2014

New controversy over War Memorial Field

[Originally published in - October 5 2014]

Memorial Field, home to Ardrossan Academicals Rugby Club, is at the centre of a development controversy for the second time in just over a year.

In 2013 there was strong public opposition to a proposal involving the rugby club and North Ayrshire Council, which would have seen the building of a controversial ‘super-school’ on the Memorial Field, with the Accies relocating across Sorbie Road to the current site of Ardrossan Academy.

Eventually, following a public consultation, councillors from NAC’s SNP administration listened to local people and threw-out the plan for one non-denominational school to take every pupil from Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston.  A knock-on effect of the decision was that Ardrossan Accies’ plans for a new clubhouse and pitches were also ditched.

However, Trustees of the Memorial Field, who are appointed from within the rugby club, have now submitted to North Ayrshire Council an ‘Application for Planning Permission in Principle’, which seeks the “Erection of clubhouse pavilion, including formation of car parking, demolition of existing clubhouse and erection of flatted development”.  Papers submitted with the application reveal the proposed ‘flatted development’ would be a 3-storey building containing 21 flats.  The planned ‘clubhouse pavilion’ would be a 2-storey structure.

The planning application from the rugby club is not the first time permission has been sought to build housing on the field that was initially created in memory of former pupils of Ardrossan Academy who gave their lives fighting in world wars.  Previously, a submission in the name of Memorial Field Trustee Wylie Nicol – the same person whose name appears on the current planning application – sought to amend the North Ayrshire Local Development Plan to change the Memorial Field’s designation from ‘open space’ and to allow a housing development on the land. 

On that occasion, North Ayrshire Council rejected the application, stating, “Scottish Planning Policy (CD/21) states only where there is strong justification should an area of open space be developed either partly or fully for a purpose unrelated to its function as open space.”

The Council response continued, “[Mr Nicol’s] justification is insufficient and does not support a residential allocation within Ardrossan War Memorial Field.  No justification has been submitted demonstrating why refurbishment or an on-site replacement of the existing pavilion cannot be viably achieved.  In addition, the representee [Mr Nicol] has not provided evidence of dialogue or support from SportScotland nor submitted a business case.  For these reasons, the Council believes allocating the site from ‘Open Space’ to ‘Housing’ is unwarranted.”

Council officials concluded, “There is also concern that a reallocation of the site from ‘Open Space’ to ‘Housing’, in having inadequate justification, would set undesirable precedent for further unjustified loss of open space elsewhere.”

The War Memorial Field was formerly part of the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Golf Course, which, during the Second World War, had been used primarily to grow food for the war effort.  The part nearest Ardrossan Academy had housed an anti-aircraft battery.

Following the war, a group of former Academy pupils bought around 10-acres of the former golf course, turning it into rugby pitches for the use of pupils and ex-pupils of the school.  The area became known as the Memorial Field in memory of former pupils of Ardrossan Academy who lost their lives during the war. understands purchase of the land for a War Memorial Field may have partly been funded by public donations, with then pupils of Ardrossan Academy involved in raising money.

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