COUNCIL bosses say they have offered support to Beith Juniors over the club's use, and ownership, of Bellsdale Park - but have insisted that any bid to legally acquire ownership of the ground must come from the community.

The Garnock Valley club revealed last week that although the local council had been their "landlords for decades" - it was not NAC who owned the park.

The club, and the council, only discovered the true situation when a community asset transfer of Bellsdale was discussed.

The club revealed the information in a bid to clear up speculation among supporters about the team's prospects of being promoted to the Lowland League should they win the West of Scotland Football League Premier Division.

The club does not currently hold a full SFA licence, meaning Beith can't be promoted beyond their present level - with the ownership of Bellsdale Park proving a major stumbling block to carrying out the ground improvements needed for a licence.

Discussions over a community asset transfer began in May 2022 when an initial enquiry form was submitted to the council about the possible transfer of both Bellsdale Park and the adjacent Meadowside all-weather surface.

As part of this process, a full title check was completed by the council's legal department - during which, it was determined that Bellsdale is owned not by the council but by a private trust.

That trust was set up in 1920 - and the last living member passed away in 1971.

The council said Beith have been advised of the process required to go through should they wish to pursue ownership of Bellsdale Park.

The community asset transfer of Meadowside can progress as a single asset.

Without ownership of Bellsdale Park, Beith Juniors cannot apply for planning permission to erect floodlights, a key part of SFA licensing requirements.

A club spokesperson said: "At this present time we are continuing to pursue taking over ownership of the ground, and hope to have this resolved sooner rather than later."

However, the Herald wanted to further clarify other issues which may have come to light given this ownership issue.

One particular point was, given that NAC had been Beith's "landlord for decades", had the club been charged rent for a park which the council did not in fact own.

The council now says it has not charged Beith any rent for the use of Bellsdale Park.

The Herald also asked the council whether it planned to give Beith any assistance in securing ownership of their ground.

An NAC spokesperson said: “We are happy to assist the original applicant - or any other interested party - with guidance on how they may go about acquiring the land and have offered help in that regard.

“We can only offer professional advice and any move to legally acquire the land has to come from the community and not from North Ayrshire Council.”