Game in protest against loss of Waterside pitch as professional footballers lend their support to campaign

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Protestors have arranged a football match on the pitch at Waterside on Sunday, February 10, at 1pm as part of the campaign over the imminent loss of the sports facility for the village.

The Scottish Government recently upheld a controversial decision to build an additional needs school on land occupied by the only football pitch in Waterside.

Despite campaigns by residents of the village, who are concerned about the cost of losing this sports and community facility, ministers have declined to call in East Dunbartonshire Council’s decision to close Campsie View and Merklands Schools and building the new school.

A letter to the council confirmed that the Scottish Government is satisfied the council has acted in compliance with all relevant legislation.

Joint Council Leader Vaughan Moody (Liberal Democrat, Bearsden South) said: “This consent to close Campsie View and Merkland schools is the next step towards the delivery of a much needed new Additional Support Needs school for the area.

“We were required to notify Scottish Ministers of our council decision back in November, and their confirmation that they will not be calling in our decision means we can now progress its implementation to deliver a new fit for purpose ASN school to meet our future needs.

“This confirmation from Scottish Ministers is consistent with the independent assessment of the report on our consultation by Education Scotland, who found the council to have consulted appropriately and believed our proposal to be justified and to have educational benefit.”

Joint Council Leader Andrew Polson (Conservative, Bearsden South) added: “When we took the decision to proceed with our proposals back in November, we recognised that the responses from our school communities were overwhelmingly in support of the proposal, but that there were concerns raised about the impact of the proposed new school in the Waterside community.

“We confirmed then and reiterate now, that we are absolutely committed to ensuring that the impact will be a positive one and the new school and wider development of the Waterside site will provide additional facilities for the community to  access.”

Although residents of Waterside support the new school, they firmly believe the council has made the wrong choice in where to build it.  Several well-known people from the world of football are among the latest to have warned of the impact losing this facility will have.

Pundit and ex-professional player Des McKeown said:  “My closest friendships were built on football pitches.

“From playing with jumpers as goalposts on Cannerton Park in Milton of Campsie to plying my trade in professional football at stadiums such as Broadwood, Palmerston and Firhill, the people closest to me are those I met through football.

“The power of the game is hidden to those who don’t understand it and lost on those who weren’t lucky enough to find it.

“As well as friendships I also firmly believe that those early days on the pitches in Milton of Campsie provided me with values and skills that have stayed with me throughout my life, and along with providing all of this, it should not be forgotten that football pitches up and down the country also provide their community with a focal point for gathering to celebrate gala days, firework displays and other community events.

“Communities like Waterside NEED their pitch for THEIR events and, as each playing field is surrendered to town planning departments, another piece of that community’s DNA is stripped away.”

“This cannot be allowed to happen in Waterside.”

Airdrieonians  vice-chairman Martin Ferguson said: “This should not be allowed to happen.

“The good people of East Dunbartonshire pay Council Tax to enable East Dunbarton Council to provide good quality grass sports facilities so that their children have somewhere to go to take part in sporting activities to help them stay fit and healthy.

“The decision to build on the grass football pitch in Waterside village should be reversed immediately.”

Livingston FC captain Craig Halkett, who played for Rosebank United as a youngster, said: “I was really surprised to hear that East Dunbartonshire Council were going to build on the grass football pitch in Waterside.

“The football community have already lost the two grass pitches at Tintock (The Totties) and as a result some youth football clubs have had to reduce the number of teams in their club due to the shortage of good grass pitches locally as the alternative is to play on 4G astro grass pitches, which are far too expensive to hire for young footballers.

“The loss of another grass pitch will only drive children away from the game we all love.”

Football scout Mick Oliver said:  “I have been involved in football in one way or another all of my life and in recent times I have become increasingly concerned about the decline of football at youth level in our country.

“To lose another good grass pitch at Waterside is not going to help us encourage children to take up the game.

“East Dunbarton Council need to think this through and allow the residents of Waterside Village to keep this pitch intact as it is the heart beat of the village and vital for the villagers to keep their identity and continue to meet on the pitch for sporting and social events.”

Football scout and Scottish Junior Cup winner Stuart Robertson said:  “I came through the ranks playing for my school, my boys brigade and then youth football before I went on to become a professional footballer. I developed my game of the pitches in and around Kirkintilloch and I played on the pitch at Waterside on numerous occasions.

“I am of the opinion that football should be played on grass pitches and to lose another grass pitch just beggars belief.

“It’s not so long ago that East Dunbarton Council spent in excess of £100,000 to put in new drainage and level the pitch at Waterside. It’s now established as one of the best if not the best grass football pitch in the Kirkintilloch Area.

“Now a decision has been made to build on the pitch and take away another grass pitch, a decision which does not take into account the needs of the people of Waterside and surrounding areas.

“This should not be allowed to happen.”

West Park United secretary Andy Burns said:  “As club secretary of West Park United, I find it wrong to lose yet another community facility in East Dunbartonshire. Its loss would curtail opportunities for the areas youth to play and enjoy the national game and limit most clubs’ ability to sustain membership levels.”