Letters to the Editor

Stonehaven harbour view
Stonehaven harbour view

Initiatives

Work together for our future

Sir, – I refer to what Douglas Samways said in his letter, last week, about community initiative.

Take, for example, the Scottish Government’s focus on health and fitness. Inverurie has a fit-for-purpose sports and leisure facility that is about to be further improved with a £15m extension.

This centre was initiated by local citizens via a “not or profit” trust and opened in 1996. It is now planned to add a £15m development, again an initiative by trustees of Garioch Sports Ltd. and the community, supported by the council. The funds for this will be raised from local benefactors, and sources like the Big Lottery, the Scottish Government and Sportscotland.

Stonehaven has a small sports centre, generally considered inadequate by many, and resulting in the dilapidated Beach Pavilion being used as an overflow facility for many user groups. The pavilion is considered by the council as surplus to requirements and has been made available to the community through the Community Asset Transfer policy.

The current user groups have been offered alternative arrangements, but these are spread around the town in facilities that are also showing their age and may not meet the full needs of the displaced users.

Work on the pavilion is estimated to cost at least £60,000 to refurbish it alone and substantially more if the facility is to be upgraded to ensure it is wind and watertight for the future.

The logic in all this is flawed.

Why are we are now considering spending money and effort and time on an overflow leisure facility which is a couple of hundred yards from the town’s existing one?

Would it not be better if we worked together in the community with the aim of either extending the existing leisure centre to be suitable for our future needs or building a new one and incorporating a recreational facility for a broad range of existing community activities and new ones, such as Men’s Shed.

It is doubtful that money would be available at local council level but surely that need not be a barrier if, like in Inverurie, the community and the council got together on this?

Look at just some of the successes achieved over the past few years via the initiative of local groups run by people in the community and supported by the council.

STP initiatives have resulted in the caravan site being successfully taken over by the Caravan Club, the addition of an artificial sports pitch at Mineralwell, the advent of the very successful land train and more recently taking over the court buildings for the community.

With substantial assistance from Rotary over £1m has been raised towards a new dialysis unit and, on the harbour, the Sea Cadets are building a brand-new £0.5m facility for their activities.

So, instead of spending money and effort extending the life of a moribund structure should we not all concentrate on making sure we get a facility in Stonehaven which is suitable for years to come to meet all the requirements of sports, leisure and recreation and craft groups.

I think that this is the sort of initiative which Douglas Samways is alluding to. – Yours, etc.,

Bill Allan

Stonehaven

(Full address supplied)

Euro-Cash

Paying out and feeling the pinch

Sir, – It is reported that the UK paid into the EU some £13.9bn.

Can someone, somewhere care to tell us what we got for our money?

Meanwhile Poland and Romania were just two of a number of net recipients of EU funds, so who exactly is getting the best deal?

Meanwhile austerity and council cuts continue and, perhaps, this goes some way to explain why post-industrial areas in Scotland cannot get investment. –

Yours, etc.,

R. Hunter

(Address supplied)

Changing Times

Stoney needs an action group

Sir, – The closure of the Mearns Leader office at the end of this month is perhaps regrettable but it is by no means surprising.

It appears that, from now on, news of and about Stonehaven will be dealt with by a single reporter, who will also be doing the same thing for other titles. The explanation is economic: people are not buying newspapers and as a consequence, advertising revenue for print media is falling.

The Leader’s parent company, Johnston Press is a big player and has, for some time, been engaged in debt reduction and profit maximising activities.

We need to face up to the inevitable – the ‘Mearns Leader’ will probably cease to exist in the not too distant future. And it’s not the only long-standing feature of the town that won’t be here for much longer.

Fifty years ago places like Rickarton and Netherley had a shop, post office and school. Now they don’t. Twenty years ago places the size of Auchenblae and Fettercairn had a post office, bank and pub. Now they don’t.

Now it’s Stoney’s turn to experience the impact of the digital economy and the centralisation of retail, commercial and service sector activities on increasingly larger centres of population.

There has been quite a bit of hand wringing and cries of despair recently about closures in Stonehaven.

Again, we should not be surprised.

The reasons are twofold: economics and the emerging digital economy, and social media. As mentioned above, centralisation for economic reasons has been going on for decades.

The question is: if we accept the economic reality, what should be done to secure the town’s long-term future?

Here’s my starter for ten. Quite the bleating. Accept reality. We can’t turn the clock back. Ways must be found to reduce significantly the dead hand of local government as it is presently constituted.

I suggest a ‘Stonehaven’s Future’ action group be formed with the task of drawing up a set of proposals to ensure a sustainable future for the town.

These proposals and an accompanying road map showing how and when they might be brought to fruition would then be issued to the people of Stonehaven for comment. The group might begin by revisiting the various relevant reports and surveys which have been gathering dust for the past decade or so, as well as visiting other forward looking towns/communities to learn from their experiences.

Local residents with a proven track record in getting things done, and those actively involved in projects that have improved the town, would form the core of this group. The role of Aberdeenshire councillors should be restricted at this stage to that of advisers as their allegiances to political parties and getting themselves elected next time tends, in my opinion, to distract them.

It is reasonable to assume that the group would be able to call upon the expertise and experience of relevant council officials.

This to me is real community planning. – Yours, etc.,

Douglas Samways

Stonehaven

(Full address supplied)