Ministers back Judy Murray tennis and golf centre plan

Judy Murray's plan to build a modern tennis centre have been aprroved. Pic: Robert Perry
Judy Murray's plan to build a modern tennis centre have been aprroved. Pic: Robert Perry
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The Scottish Government has backed plans for a tennis and golf centre championed by Judy Murray despite the findings of a public inquiry into the development.

Ministers intend to grant planning permission in principle for the centre at Park of Keir, between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan, in the face of a critical report.

READ MORE: Judy Murray hopeful tennis centre will get green light

The proposals, which include 12 tennis courts, a golf academy, hotel and new homes, attracted high-profile backers including Sir Alex Ferguson and Colin Montgomerie.

The scheme was rejected by Stirling Council in December 2015 but a public inquiry was launched after the developers appealed to the Scottish Government.

The inquiry was heard in September by Scottish Government-appointed reporter Timothy Brian, who recommended the appeal be dismissed.

In a report penned in December, he concluded that “a development of this scale ... would seriously erode the openness of the green belt between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan, and have a significant negative impact on its core role and function to maintain the separate and distinct identities of these towns and to protect their landscape settings”.

He added that the proposals “are contrary to policies which aim to protect the green belt and special landscapes, avoid inappropriate development in the countryside, reduce dependency on the private car and promote sustainable forms of development”.

Mr Brian concluded he was “not persuaded that there is a compelling local need for a new tennis complex at Park of Keir” nor “that a national centre to develop coaches, train elite players and host competitions would be best developed in a countryside location away from Scotland’s main centres of population”.

In their decision, Scottish ministers said they “do not support the reporter’s recommendation to refuse this appeal”.

Local government minister Kevin Stewart said: “I have concluded that the development is of significant regional and national significance.

“It will bring strong benefits to Scottish sport, helping in the development of elite competitors, while also providing facilities for the community.

“There will also be economic benefits, both to the local area and more widely.

“The next step is for the planning authority and developer to work together to agree to discharge the planning obligation.

“Once Scottish ministers are satisfied, they will then be able to formally grant planning permission for the proposal.”

The conditions include a commitment from the developer to contribute to affordable housing and education in the area, an agreement that no further housing will be built on the site and that the sports facilities are affordable and accessible to the general public.

Ms Murray has said she wanted to create a legacy to the success of her tennis sons Andy and Jamie but the development attracted more than 1,000 letters of objection.

She said she was delighted about the prospect of opening the centre: “I am thrilled to bits about this decision and the opportunity it gives us to create a brilliant community sports facility in our hometown of Dunblane. I’m passionate about creating a lasting legacy from the successes of Jamie and Andy and about getting more people playing and teaching sport.

“I want Scotland to be a healthier and more active nation and I can’t wait to start developing the plans with the local community and the various governing bodies.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell, who represents Mid Scotland and Fife, said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the decision.

“For 30 years communities have successfully fought to protect this precious landscape from property developers, it’s totally unsuitable for housing, but local plans and the conclusions of a lengthy public inquiry have been ripped up by the Scottish Government,” he said.

“The proposal will not make Park of Keir a national centre for tennis or golf, it’s about as far away from deprived communities who need local facilities as you can get, this decision has more to do with appeasing celebrities and developers with deep pockets than securing a sporting legacy.”

Alston Birnie of King Group, Ms Murray’s partners on the project, said: “I am very pleased that after many years of presenting the case for this important development, the Scottish Government have decided to approve our planning application at Park of Keir and we can now get on with delivering an exciting legacy to the achievements of the Murray family and at the same time create a tremendous community facility that will be of benefit to both young people and families from all over Scotland for many generations to come.

“King Group look forward to working with Judy Murray to bring these exciting plans to life. We believe the proposed Sporting facilities at Park of Keir will also potential provide the Stirling Area with an additional international tourism destination that will create many jobs and generate valuable additional income for the local area for the future”