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New £30m five-star hotel in Deeside moves step closer with operators in ‘advanced discussions’ about running it

Artist's impression of the £30million five-star 'Lucullan' hotel at Inchmarlo near Banchory.
Artist's impression of the £30million five-star 'Lucullan' hotel at Inchmarlo near Banchory.

Hotel operators are in “advanced discussions” about running a £30 million five-star resort planned for Deeside.

It has emerged that a firm is in advanced talks with the landowner at Inchmarlo, near Banchory, to run the plush development unveiled last week.

Developers have now lodged documents with Aberdeenshire Council, which they hope will push forward proposals which date back to 2011.

As well as a 45-suite hotel with two restaurants, a spa and more, they want to build 95 family homes to help fund the project.

Of these homes, 30 would be affordable and the money gained from the properties would be used to build the hotel.

Sauchen-based Kirkwood Homes, alongside Inchmarlo Farms Ltd, has now submitted a planning application to Aberdeenshire Council for the major project, which has been tipped to attract “high rollers” willing to splash out in the area.

The developers say the overall development would bring investment of £62m to Royal Deeside, and create 80 jobs at the new “Lucullan” hotel.

Back in 2011, councillors backed plans for a golf resort, five-star 75-bedroom hotel and spa.

Four years later, councillors gave the green light to a revised masterplan, including a 38-room hotel, 85 homes and 12 lodges.

The developers hope their most recent plan, if approved, could commence construction this year.

Although the golf resort aspect has dropped from the plans since 2013, the new development will have one fine dining and one general restaurant, a lounge bar, a “whisky library”, and a function facility if approved.

The papers, lodged with the council and published online yesterday, explain that the latest plan will need the original planning consents to be changed to allow the creation of homes to fund the venture.

The application states: “While the funding required for the hotel remains challenging, a hotel operator is currently in advanced discussions with the landowner and has provided crucial information to seek to deliver the proposals.

“What is abundantly clear is that a new approach is required to reinvigorate this stalled project.

“It is also clear that an element of the housing development is required to be released early to cross fund the delivery of the hotel proposal.”

The phased development is intended to begin with 70 houses – of which 30 are affordable, before construction of the hotel, then 15 further non-affordable houses, lodges, and finally executive housing.

The developers add: “The proposals continue to reflect the range of buildings found within Royal Deeside country estates, that is, from the ‘big house’ which will be the hotel, the home farm, steadings and appropriate housing, but with clear reference to contemporary lifestyles and energy efficiency.

“Integrating the development into the existing landscape and enhancing it with new landscape features remains central to the design approach.

“In summary, the current consents are unworkable, unviable and totally undeliverable.

“Common sense dictates that some funding mechanism, in this case affordable and mainstream housing, is required to assist with the delivery of the hotel and associated leisure uses.

“These new proposals therefore seek to reinvigorate the project and unlock the promised job creation and local economic impacts.”

Kirkwood Homes managing director, Colin Crombie, said the most recent plans have been drawn up following consultation with the local community.

And Andrew Martin, director of the Scottish Centre of Tourism at Robert Gordon University, called the proposals a “vote of confidence in the future of our region”.

The pandemic has caused misery for the hotel sector in the north-east, including at the luxury four-star Ardoe House Hotel at Blairs which went into liquidation with the loss of 68 jobs in November.

The plans also received the backing of Stephen Gow, vice chairman of Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels’ Association, who called for “continual development at all levels” of the hotel sector in the north-east, to ensure a robust future for tourism in the region.

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