Coldstream’s Home Park referendum

Fence posts around Coldstream FC's ground at Home Park.
Fence posts around Coldstream FC's ground at Home Park.
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COLDSTREAM residents are to have their say on plans by the town’s football club to make changes to Home Park.

The football club has submitted a planning application to Scottish Borders Council to put up a permanent, solid, two metre fence around the top football pitch, a grandstand for over 100 people, an extension to the existing clubrooms, a portable pitchside fence, three access gates around the perimeter fence and a decorative gate at the Home Place entrance to the park.

Coldstream and District Community Council has decided that as the park was gifted to the town by the Earl of Home in the early 20th century for recreational and sports purposes, all residents on the electoral roll should be given the opportunity to have their views heard, and so are organising a referendum on the planning application.

Residents will be asked “Should the proposed changes to Home Park go ahead?”

Once the votes have been counted, the majority view will form the community council’s submission to Scottish Borders Council who will ultimately make the decision on whether planning permission should be given.

Outlining the proposed changes to Home Park, required by Scottish Football Association criteria so the club can maintain its full SFA membership, Coldstream Football Club committee member Gerald Tait said: “There are 20 full member clubs in Scotland of the same size as us that are being faced with challenging issues from the SFA.

“This is to reach a development stage called ‘Entry’ standard, to be able to obtain an ongoing SFA licence. In the Scottish Borders, there is the Vale of Leithen, Hawick Royal Albert, Gala Fairydean and Selkirk FCs facing these same changes. Basically the SFA obliges all clubs to improve their football grounds, coaching, accommodation, first-aid and health and safety.

“Coldstream Football Club feels that there will be no real change of use for the park, with the proposed changes, it will only look different in some respects and the new park gate should be a useful enhancement.”

Explaining the reason why the community council has opted for a referendum, chairman, Martin Brims said: “There are a number of factors underpinning our decision.

“Of primary importance is the community council’s role in the planning application process, which is to represent and convey the views of the community to Scottish Borders Council.

“Secondly, given that this particular application involves changes to a public space, a referendum seems the only democratic way to assess the public’s views so that we can meet our previously stated obligation.

“Thirdly, the large turnout at the public meeting, organised by Coldstream Football Club, coupled with various articles and letters in this newspaper, have served to underline the importance that these proposals have for a significant proportion of our residents.

“In light of all the factors above, at our meeting of January 17, it was formally agreed that we would conduct a referendum to gauge the views of the community once the planning application was submitted. The planning application was received by Scottish Borders Council on January 29, and we are now working on establishing the referendum.

“Residents should note that the community council is not a decision making body when planning applications are being assessed. That responsibility lies with Scottish Borders Council. All residents are free to express their support or objections to SBC’s planning department.

“I would encourage all who feel strongly (either in support or against) to make an individual representation directly to the council and not assume that a vote in the referendum is a substitute for that right.

“The community council has been kept informed of the development of the proposals for Home Park; we have maintained an impartial position throughout, and will continue to do so until the results of the poll are known. I am sure that this is what the residents of Coldstream and District would expect of us.”

Scottish Borders Council’s website explains the main role of a community council as being: to represent their local area, to consult with local residents and pass their views to public sector organisations. Coldstream & District Community Council believe they are fulfilling that role by undertaking this referendum to establish the majority view.

Coldstream Football Club held a public meeting, put a newsletter through every letterbox in Coldstream and has put a number of letters of explanation and assurance in ‘The Berwickshire’. Gerald Tait saying: “Given that Home Park is a public park we have been very conscious of the need for public consultation and engagements. Our objective here has been to be as open and transparent with the Coldstream public as possible, and the main users of Home Park.

Ballot papers and an accompanying letter explaining the process will be distributed in the town and outlying areas next week and those wishing to take part in the vote should put their voting paper into the ballot box in Clarks newsagents, by Monday, March 4. A returning officer has been appointed, Berwickshire Deputy Lieutenant Susan Swan, and she will undertake the ballot count.