Duns deal secures old high school pitches for 40 years

THE future of the football and rugby clubs in Duns has been secured for the next four decades thanks to a deal that will see both clubs move to the old Berwickshire High School.

An agreement has been reached for SportDuns to lease the senior rugby and football pitches at the former Berwickshire High School for a nominal sum for 40 years.

If the sporting umbrella organisation can afford it, the gym will also be transferred outright from Scottish Borders Council to Duns Rugby Club, the games hall, the portable cabins and their site to Duns Football Club, and the site of the squash courts to Duns Squash Club.

When the new Berwickshire High School opened, the plan was to sell off some of the sports pitches behind the old Berwickshire High School for housing, the proceeds going towards helping to pay for the new high school.

However, following local consultation in 2008/9 consensus was reached that the high school pitches should be retained for sports, with the sports training pitches at Todlaw in Duns to be sold off for housing instead.

Duns Rugby Club and Duns Football Club have had to play on pitches outside the town for many years and both have been keen to get facilities in the town.

After councillors gave their unanimous approval for the transfer to SportDuns this week, Councillor Frances Renton said: “I’m absolutely over the moon about it.

“It’s bringing both sports back into the town whereas before the rugby was at the Hardens and football at Gavinton, and some of the elderly members of the community couldn’t get out to see them. It also gives the two clubs security.

“It’s a great day for the two clubs and hopefully we can get the gym and games hall transferred. This is just phase one, phase two will be transfer of the buildings and then at some point the Jim Clark Rooms will also transfer up there.”

Councillor Renton paid tribute to SBC’s Andrew Drummond Hunt and his team who have worked with SportDuns and the individual clubs and SportDuns to make the transfer happen.

There were a number of issues to overcome. Among them were parking and access problems, particularly when Duns Primary School transfers to the old high school building, but the sports facilities will mainly be in use in the evenings and weekends so shouldn’t affect the school too much. A user group is being established – the football club, rugby club, swimming pool, and education department – to help the multi-use site work for everyone and to keep the lines of communication open between them.

For 35 years Duns Football Club have been trying to find a pitch within the town and now that they have finally succeeded, chairman Andrew Whitehead is “absolutely delighted”.

He said: “Massive credit has to go to the directors of SportDuns who have driven this process through. It’s a massive year for the club both on and off the park.”

Duns Football Club now runs two adult teams, the first-team having gained East of Scotland League status last summer. The club also run five junior teams and have recently started up an under 17s team.

They gained planning permission for their club rooms at Gavinton, all of which means that fundraising events are essential. Now they have the prospect of finally having a pitch within Duns itself, which they expect to ready for use the 2013-14 season.

President of Duns Rugby Club, Tom Thorburn is equally delighted: “I’m just pleased that the hard work done by SportDuns and Andrew Drummond Hunt has been rewarded. Once the lease is put in place between SportDuns and ourselves we will get on with work on the pitches. It’s key to our timetable.”

Mr Thoburn expects the groundwork on the pitches to take 12 to 18 months and said it was imperative that everything was in place and ready to start in this financial year to meet the Sport Scotland grant requirements.

When councillors discussed the transfer this week Mid Berwickshire councillor Donald Moffat described it as a great example of the community and council working together to improve the pitches for use of the community and help Duns FC with the requirements of the East of Scotland League.

Councillor Michael Cook supported but raised fears that the £14,500 maintenance costs of the pitches. “That is a lot per annum for rugby and football clubs that may have them thinking ‘ How can we manage that?’”

But Andrew Drummond Hunt explained that both clubs employed qualified groundsmen who had previously worked with the council, this cost was associated with outside groups to work on pitches.

Drummond Hunt added: “If it all falls through, the primary school won’t be left stranded as there is a clause that allows the council to step in.”