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Abandoned office building to be converted into block of 50 flats in Aberdeen – if developers accept council conditions

An artistic impression of the redeveloped office building, which planners ruled would only be allowed if it was build-to-rent.
An artistic impression of the redeveloped office building, which planners ruled would only be allowed if it was build-to-rent.

An abandoned office building in Aberdeen will be converted into a block of 50 flats, if developers agree to some demands imposed by the council.

Council planners ruled that the proposed “co-living” flats within Alba Gate in Stoneywood Park could only be approved if they were to be rented out, instead of sold.

The local authority’s planning committee unanimously agreed they would be willing to sign-off on the Xusa development, if the firm agreed to their conditions.

Opposite BP’s current North Sea headquarters on the road to Dyce, the empty 72,000 sq ft site had not been viewed by any prospective tenants for five months when plans were submitted in July.

Xusa wants to convert the existing office block – in land marked for business use – to form 50 one and two-bedroom flats, co-working office space and makers’ space, as well as a cafe, gym and residents’ library.

The building would be re-cladded and extended instead of demolished, which has been welcomed as a “sustainable approach” by the council.

Alba Gate, as it stands today
Alba Gate, as it stands today.

Councillors raised concerns around the number of parking spaces, while convener Marie Boulton admitted being “slightly uncomfortable” with “almost impacting the economics” of the scheme.

Planners said “significant deficiencies in the layout, design and siting” of the flats, the potential for conflict between individual owners and the businesses there and shared amenities mean it “cannot be supported as mainstream housing”.

They ruled it could only be considered acceptable if part of a centrally-controlled, build-to-rent private-rented sector (PRS) development – a Scottish Government backed concept being pushed as the “future of the property market”.

Planning officer Alex Ferguson told councillors: “The planning service considers the development can only be supported subject to appropriate controls, and a restriction of the legal agreement would prevent the sale of individual residential units to owner-occupiers.

“The flexible approach taken to normal standards permitted in build-to-rent schemes is due to the more-temporary nature of such accommodation compared to homes owned by the occupier.

“If those appropriate controls are applied then the planning service is satisfied the development would offer a high quality, relatively unique model of housing within the city, which would add to the range of residential accommodation on offer.

“We have a slight concern as well that should the associated ancillary commercial facilities cease to operate in the future, it’s obviously easier for someone renting to vacate their property rather for an owner-occupier.”

Xusa would also be required to sign up to £60,000 towards an extension to already overflowing Bucksburn Academy, healthcare facilities, paths and open space, as well as including 13 affordable homes on-site.

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