The owners of the Old Mill Inn site remain determined to see a garden centre rise from the rubble of the blaze-hit hotel – despite the council rejecting the plans.
Victor and Audrey Sang, along with business partner Mike French, want to build a two-storey garden centre and restaurant on the “eyesore” patch at Maryculter.
The proposed development on the outskirts of Aberdeen also includes five new homes along with an antiques shop and café.
Trio have owned site for more than 30 years
The business partners bought the Old Mill Inn in 1989 and over the years the hotel hosted numerous events including weddings and birthday parties.
It closed its doors in 2014 and underwent a major refurbishment.
But in a cruel twist of fate, the revamped interior was swamped during Storm Frank flooding only months after reopening.
The historic hotel, which had been in operation for around 200 years, was badly damaged following a fire this February and was demolished shortly afterwards.
Over the last three years the owners have been working on plans to redevelop the site while retaining the C-Listed corn mill building that dates back to the 18th Century.
‘We are optimistic…’
They had submitted an application to Aberdeenshire Council, which was backed by dozens of locals eager to see the roadside spot brought back into use.
But members of the Kincardine and Mearns area committee quashed the plans on Tuesday blaming a “lack of information”.
Mr French refuses to give up on his dream, however.
Though “disappointed” the plan was refused, he is “optimistic” it can still eventually get the go-ahead.
He said: “There were two main technical points for refusal which we are actively going to address as soon as possible.
“We will be resubmitting our planning application within the next couple of months.
“We are optimistic because there is a consensus that something needs to be done to redevelop the site, it’s an eyesore at the moment and is not doing anybody any good.
“It will cost around £300,000 to repair the old mill which has been vandalised to the point that it is dangerous.”
But what if the River Dee bursts its banks again?
The partners hope to build an “iconic” two-storey building – constructed on stilts to avoid any harm from rising waters.
They envisage the garden centre on the first floor and a restaurant on the second floor, offering stunning views over the river.
They say the new development would create new jobs in the area while also providing a new facility for locals and tourists.
Mike added: “While everyone else builds walls or banks around their properties, what we are doing is raising the property, allowing the water to flow under the building so we’re not passing it on to any neighbours.
“We’ve only ever been flooded once in 2015 by Storm Frank.
“We were very fortunate that it never flooded even last year when we had the really bad floods, the Old Mill site was never touched.”
Old Mill Inn garden centre idea popular with locals
Mike also said that the five proposed houses are “integral” to the planning application and will provide “much-needed” family homes for Maryculter.
And he thanked local residents for supporting their plans.
The businessman said: “It’s been a saga since 2015, we haven’t had an easy time but we thank everyone for their support and their patience.
“We all want something to happen on the site to move forward for the modern century.”
You can read more about the latest planning applications lodged across the north-east in our Planning Ahead round-up: