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Planners back vision for luxury resort at Deeside – despite concerns hotel may never be built

An artist's impression of the Lucullan hotel, which is at the centre of the proposals for the Inchmarlo site. Supplied by Liberty One
An artist's impression of the Lucullan hotel, which is at the centre of the proposals for the Inchmarlo site. Supplied by Liberty One

Planning chiefs have recommended proposals for a luxury resort and housing development in Deeside should be approved – despite fears that the hotel itself could never materialise.

The latest plans for the spot have been 10 years in the making, starting life in 2011 when the local authority approved a proposal for a golf resort, 75-bedroom hotel and spa on the site at Inchmarlo, near Banchory.

After some revisions – including the dropping of the golf resort aspect – councillors gave the green light to updated plans in 2015.

However, the developers later said those existing consents were “unworkable, unviable and totally undeliverable” due to the condition that construction on the homes could only begin after the hotel was completed and operational.

As a result, the latest proposal would allow Sauchen-based Kirkwood Homes and Inchmarlo Farms Ltd to build residential units either in tandem with or in advance of their £30million Lucullan hotel, spa and lodges development.

Fears over latest changes

This change was at the heart of concerns raised by two local community councils.

Inchmarlo, Brathens and Glassel Community Council stated their stance was neutral, but expressed worries that the alteration “could result in houses built with no hotel, leaving the community to absorb negative impacts of housing without any economic
or amenity benefit from the hotel”.

An artist’s impression of the overhead view of the proposed Lucullan Hotel. Supplied by Imajica Brand Evolution

Banchory Community Council was explicit in its objection to the proposals, voicing concerns about the suitability of housing on such a “remote” site, the viability of a five-star hotel in the area and the impact on facilities in the town.

They add in their objection: “By abandoning the current phasing conditions […] there would be no barrier to the construction of the 70 houses requested in phase one and then no hotel development taking place.”

All the consents that were approved during the first phase of the project in 2011 remain in effect.

‘A step forward’

Responding to the concerns in the report, Aberdeenshire Council’s director of infrastructure Alan Wood conceded “there is still a risk that the housing could be delivered in isolation” and “there is never certainty that any development will be fully delivered”.

However, he added: “The overall development could deliver significant economic benefits to the region.

“This amended application is considered to offer a step forward from the static situation on site currently.

“Delivery of the amended phasing plan to enable the hotel’s progress needs to be carried out in a manner which allows for practical delivery in a viable manner.”

The developers have said they plan to use the housing to generate an income stream, which would then be used to deliver the hotel and its “associated leisure uses”.

They hope to deliver the project in phases, beginning with 70 houses – of which 30 are affordable – before constructing the hotel, then 15 further houses, lodges, and finally executive housing.

Developer ‘extremely pleased’

If approved, the five-star Lucullan hotel will have 38 guest rooms, with an additional 44 bedrooms within 12 lodges, while the resort would also include a spa, one fine-dining and one general restaurant, a lounge bar, a “whisky library” and a function facility.

Allan Rae, land director at Kirkwood Homes, said: “We are extremely pleased that our proposals have been recommended for approval.

“As the site already has planning consent, the application is effectively seeking a variation to the original phasing which will see 70 new homes, (30 of which would be affordable) be built, and crucially, allowing work to progress on the £30million Lucullan 5-star hotel and spa.

An artist’s impression of the entrance to the proposed Lucullan Hotel. Supplied by Imajica Brand Evolution

“Importantly, all the affordable units will be constructed at the start of the development and arrangements are in place with a local Housing Association to take these forward.”

Colin Wilson, of Inchmarlo Farms Ltd, added: “The Lucullan project team is in place and ready to begin building this flagship development which will contribute substantial economic benefits to the region in an industry sector that has been badly affected by the pandemic.

“As I said previously, the partners have invested significant time and money getting to this critical stage and subject to a positive response to the planning applications, all the necessary finance will be in place very soon to allow us to appoint a main contractor and commit to getting the ground broken later this year.”

The proposals for Inchmarlo will be discussed by the Marr area committee on Tuesday August 17. Their discussion will then be fed back to the infrastructure services committee who will have the final say.

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