Talks underway with the Caravan Club over Stonehaven park

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TALKS are underway with a national caravan organisation about taking over the running of a Stonehaven site.

The Caravan Club – billed as Europe’s number one touring organisation and boasting over 375,000 members – has been approached by the town’s Tourist Group over whether it is interested in taking over the running of the Queen Elizabeth Caravan Park.

The move comes after Aberdeenshire Council backed plans to hand over control of caravan parks across the shire to communities as part of budget cuts.

Chairman of the Stonehaven Tourism Group Frank Budd said members fully support the proposal, as do the Stonehaven Business Association, while local MSP Nigel Don and Stonehaven councillor Graeme Clark have also offered their backing.

Mr Budd said: “The Caravan Club is a professional organisation, they run sites all over the country which are considered to be the creme de la creme and are very well equipped. We are now pursuing that possibility and will see it through to its conclusion, whether they do take over the site or whether we have to pursue another solution.

“They recently took over a site at Forfar and have already spent £200,000 on making improvements – they are set to spend another £1million this year and it would be fantastic if we could get the same investment for Stonehaven.”

Mr Budd said the town was running out of volunteers for projects as there was so much going on and he had concerns about the level of professionalism and investment a community group could bring to the project if they were to take control.

“Tourism is so important to Stonehaven and it would be lovely for the town if the Caravan Club was interested,” he said. “Forfar have had a really good experience with them and said the results are showing already, with numbers using the park up and the number of folk who come into the town.

“That’s what it is all about – getting people into the town, into the pubs, the shops and spending. It is all very positive coming out of Forfar. The Caravan Club is a professional organisation and to get that sort of level of investment for Stonehaven would just be fabulous.”

The club recently released figures estimating that the business community in Forfar would benefit from £2.5million each year as a result of its presence in the town.

Mr Budd said that he hoped to arrange a site visit with the Caravan Club in April and things would move on from there.

Councillor Graeme Clark has thrown his weight behind the plan and said:“The park needs some investment and I believe in the current economic climate it may be very difficult for a voluntary group to fund it or to attract the necessary funds from other sources.

“Normally I would encourage local control of community assets but, based on my own experience of managing holiday parks in Argyll and Aberdeenshire, I am aware how demanding and onerous an undertaking this would be for any local group.”

He added: “I believe that the Caravan Club may be interested in taking over the parks at Ballater and Stonehaven and with its vast experience suggest that this would be a better outcome than offering them to local community groups.”

Nigel Don said: “I agree with Councillor Clark that the Caravan Club would be in a better financial position to fund any improvements required.

“The Caravan Club is believed to be the largest touring organisation of its kind in Europe. It is a membership organisation which regularly contacts its considerable membership and could promote this site to a very wide interest group. It can also tap into international marketing.

“Stonehaven is a gem on the east coast of Scotland and deserves the best for its community and this could bring enormous benefit to the local economy.”

Let us know your views on the situation – get in touch on 01569 762130, email us at news@mearnsleader.com or send us a letter at Mearns Leader, 12 Ann Street, Stonehaven.