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Fears for family of foxes as former Aberdeen mental health centre poised to become flats

Millbank House has been earmarked for development, but neighbours are worried about foxes living there. Supplied by Chris Donnan, design team, and fox image from Shutterstock
Millbank House has been earmarked for development, but neighbours are worried about foxes living there. Supplied by Chris Donnan, design team, and fox image from Shutterstock

Neighbours have raised fears for a family of foxes if a former Aberdeen mental health centre is transformed into new flats.

Assurance Homes Ltd wants to create 10 apartments in social charity VSA’s old Millbank House facility on Hardgate.

The charity sold the block about six months ago.

Under Assurance Home Ltd’s plans, 10 flats would be created across the vacant two-storey premises.

Four flats would be formed on the ground floor, with five on the first floor and one in the attic space.

Why are neighbours fighting Millbank House plans?

But neighbouring residents have spoken out against the proposals, with seven lodging objections with the local authority.

Locals raised concerns about an increase in noise, traffic, overlooking of nearby properties, a lack of parking and overdevelopment of the site.

Concerns were also raised about a family of foxes that have been spotted living around the vacated building.

The development would see ten flats created at Millbank House. Picture by Kirstie Topp.
The development would see ten flats created at Millbank House. Picture by Kirstie Topp

Foxes ‘not a protected species’

One resident, Mark Nicolson, questioned whether any research has been performed into the impact on Hardgate’s bushy-tailed inhabitants.

In his objection, he wrote: “My neighbour has made comment to me previously regarding the foxes that can be seen regularly in the vicinity of the proposed development.

“Has thought or study gone into this or what other wildlife reside there?”

The North-East Biological Records Centre (Nesbrec) was consulted on the development.

Experts told councillors that foxes “are not a protected species and thus no fox survey can be reasonably required”.

They also said they had no records of the nocturnal animals in the area.

Millbank House design ‘lacklustre’

Mr Nicolson believes the building should be kept in use as a care home.

He added: “One of the main reasons that I purchased my property in this area was due to how quiet the area is, adding another 10 properties directly opposite my home will change this.”

Another neighbour, David Donaldson, said the plan was “a lacklustre design to squeeze in as many flats as possible for profit”.

Why is council recommending Millbank House plans for approval?

But council planners have recommended the scheme be approved, stating that the development is “appropriate” for the area.

Their report states that since the site was previously used as a care home, the site has been established as suitable for residential use.

It adds: “The proposed use as flats would be of similar nature, and would not conflict with residential amenity in principle. The physical alterations to the building are limited in extent and do not present any fundamental concerns. The proposed single- storey ground floor extension at the rear of the site is of limited scale and would not result in any conflict with adjacent amenity due to overlooking, over domination or
shading impact.

A CGI image of the planned flats at 22 King's Gate, the site of the former VSA Forest Grove care home. Supplied by Cala Homes North.
A CGI image of the planned flats at 22 King’s Gate, the site of the former VSA Forest Grove care home. Supplied by Cala Homes North

“The principal concerns relate to the impact of the terraces and balconies due to
potential overlooking. It is accepted that there would be potential for overlooking of adjacent houses/flats from the proposed terraces/balconies. However, the existing wall at the site frontage provides a degree of screening of the windows of ground floor flat windows. The existing trees at the front of the site provide further screening of the terraces when viewed from the upper floor flats on Hardgate facing the site, particularly in the summer when the trees are in leaf and the terraces are more likely to be used by occupants.”

Councillors will consider the application on Thursday.

VSA sold off two sites in 2021

As well as selling Millbank House six months ago, VSA also sold its “redundant and outdated” Forest Grove care home in King’s Gate to Cala Homes in October.

VSA and Cala had worked together to create a proposal for 35 new flats on the site.

Money from the sale went towards the charity’s new £3.2million facility Abergeldie House, on the corner of Abergeldie Road and Holburn Street.

The charity had said the money was needed to “bridge the mental health gap” that forces hundreds of north-east residents on to waiting lists for support.


An earlier version of this article incorrectly suggested VSA was a joint applicant with Assurance Homes Ltd, and that the charity had failed to sell Millbank House. 

We have been asked to clarify this is not the case, and that VSA has no involvement in the plans for the site. We apologise for the error.


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