Plans to hold a commercially run ticketed event in Stonehaven’s Market Square on Hogmanay have been backed by councillors - despite three of the four local councillors objecting to the proposals.
A commercial company hopes to close off the Market Square for three days and hold a ticket only concert, intending to attract a big act in an event similar to that run by the Open Air in the Square committee in previous years.
The ‘Open Air in the Square’ community group attracted big name acts such as Simple Minds, the Human League and Deacon Blue. However, last year no event was held and the group have no plans to hold one this year.
Members of the Kincardine and Mearns area committee were divided over whether to allow a commercial company use of the Market Square, with some expressing concern that local people would not welcome the event.
Stonehaven and Lower Deeside Councillor Raymond Christie said: “On balance, from the people in the town I have spoken to, most have sad that they don’t want the Market Square closed off by a commercial organisation - they would rather go to the fireballs and then head to the square where it is open and no entry fee. They would prefer a local group running it with no charges.
“Personally I’m not in favour of it. We don’t know enough about the company who want to put on the concert.”
Cllr Christie was backed up by fellow Stonehaven councillors Wendy Agnew and Graeme Clark.
Cllr Agnew commented: “I have been getting the same opinion from locals. People living nearby are concerned about the noise levels. Back in the day, before health and safety killed everything, local bands would play, locals would come down and it was a great time. Much better than what we have now.”
Cllr Clark added: “I feel that, while a big concert would attract publicity and bring people into the town, Stonehaven gets that from the Fireballs anyway. The Fireballs are second only to Edinburgh in Scotland’s Hogmanay celebrations. Is it really necessary to have a commercial concert in the middle of the town? The Fireballs is what gives Stonehaven its prominence.
“In previous years the events might have been amateurish, but it was run by the people of the town. Other communities have local bands on, and can come and go, visit houses and then come back. To have a fenced off area and booking fees could be too much for Stonehaven.”
However, Mearns Councillor Dave Stewart replied: “The Fireballs are an amazing thing, but you can wish all you like, if there are no volunteers coming forward to put something on at the Square, it won’t happen. The noise concerns would be the same if it was a commercial or a community run event. If a company wants to come and organise something and make a profit, that’s what the economy is all about.”
Fellow Mearns Councillor George Carr said: “As a Fireball swinger we regard the Market Square event as completely separate to the Fireballs. The two events are always well run and there is very little trouble. It’s good for Stonehaven to have the buzz around an event like this, it brings in a lot of publicity and people to the town and I fully support it.”
Stonehaven and Lower Deeside Councillor Peter Bellarby agreed with this point of view, adding: “This event would be keeping Stonehaven on the map and can only be good for Stonehaven so I fully support it.”
Councillors voted seven votes to five to support the plans, however they were reminded by Chair Carl Nelson that the concert organisers will still need to apply for an entertainment license before the event goes ahead.