Tayside and Central Scotland

Sir Alex Ferguson plea over new Dunblane sports centre

Park of Keir development Image copyright Park of Keir
Image caption The development would include tennis facilities and housing

Sir Alex Ferguson has made a last-minute plea urging councillors to back controversial plans for a new sport and housing development near Dunblane.

The greenbelt development, which includes tennis facilities, is being promoted by Judy Murray in the face of strong local opposition.

Planning officials have recommended the application at Park of Keir be refused.

But the former Manchester United manager said Ms Murray had set out an "amazing vision" to help young people.

Councillors will vote on the planned development, between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan, on Tuesday.

The proposed development includes tennis and golf facilities along with a visitor centre and museum, all set in a new country park.

The plans also include luxury homes, which would help pay for the scheme.

Ms Murray said she wanted to leave a legacy to the success of her two sons, tennis players Andy and Jamie Murray, who both made huge contributions to Great Britain's Davis Cup win on Sunday.

She told the BBC: "For us as a family, it is all about legacy of what Jamie and Andy have achieved throughout their careers, none more so so than what they achieved at the weekend.

"Two brothers from a small town that has no track record of tennis taking on the world and winning."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Judy Murray said she wanted the tennis centre to be a legacy to the achievements of her sons.

But planning officers have recommended the application be refused because it is planned for greenbelt land.

The planners also said there was not enough affordable housing proposed and added the residential element was contrary to Scottish planning policy, because residents would have to travel for basic amenities and services.

Campaigners against the Park of Keir plan have said the loss of greenbelt land to the development is too high a price to pay.

Stirling councillor Mark Ruskell, from the Scottish Greens, said: "This is a hugely important piece of greenbelt for both the communities of Bridge of Allan and Dunblane.

"For 30 years these communities have fought development on this site. We've had 20 times the level of objection to development at Park of Keir, as opposed to letters of support."

'Lifelong love'

But Sir Alex has now written to Stirling Council's provost, saying he hopes the council "takes the right decision".

He said in the letter: "I was immensely proud to be there when Andy Murray won Wimbledon.

"Judy Murray has not only helped achieve that great victory, she has set out an amazing vision for facilities that will help young people be active and love tennis with all of the passion that she does."

Sir Alex added that with the planned golf centre, Stirling would have its own "golden triangle" of sports facilities that would help give young people a "lifelong love of sport".

Stirling Council said that those for and against the proposals would be able to express their views at the formal hearing on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman said the conclusions of its planning officials were "reached on balance following a thorough analysis by planning officers of all aspects of the case.

"This is an officer recommendation and in line with council policy it will be for elected members on the planning panel to determine this application."

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