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CONFIRMED: Council approves plans for new cafe that will ‘destroy’ historic drying green at Cruden Bay

Stephen Smith fought to save the drying green but Diane Beagrie used her casting vote to approve the scheme.   
Picture by Kami Thomson / DC Thomson
Stephen Smith fought to save the drying green but Diane Beagrie used her casting vote to approve the scheme. Picture by Kami Thomson / DC Thomson

Controversial plans for a new cafe at the historic Port Erroll Harbour have been narrowly approved by councillors.

The application was considered by the Buchan area committee this morning.

The new Harbour Dunes Cafe will be constructed from shipping containers, steel and timber cladding.

It is expected to have a V-shaped layout with an outdoor seating area allowing customers to enjoy a tasty treat while taking in the view of Cruden Bay beach.

Councillor Stephen Smith moved a motion to refuse the plan, having attended a site visit to the historic drying green last week.

Members of the public also attended the site visit. Picture by Kami Thomson/ DC Thomson

‘Several downsides’ to cafe plan

He said the proposal was “finely balanced” and would bring tourism benefits to the area but noted there was also “several downsides”.

Mr Smith also said the development would “not protect the amenity” of the existing conservation area – used in bygone days by fishermen to dry their nets.

He said: “The conservation area for Port Erroll was reconfirmed in 2019, it was very strongly supported by the local community at that time who very much wanted to see it kept in place.

“Within the conservation area document there is reference to the shipping containers used for storage as ‘an infiltration’, which is quite telling.”

Villagers have been battling to preserve the historic drying green. Picture by Kami Thomson / DC Thomson

But fellow councillor Matthew James disagreed and urged the committee to approve the cafe plan.

He believed the development would have a “neutral impact” on the character and setting of the conservation area.

The matter went to a vote that resulted in a tie with four votes each.

One no vote was received from Peterhead North and Rattray councillor Alan Buchan.

Committee chairwoman councillor Dianne Beagrie had the final say and opted to grant planning permission.

You can watch the committee meeting here.

Councillors have now approved plans to pave the way for the new Port Erroll Harbour cafe. Picture by Kami Thomson / DC Thomson

Do you think the council was right to approve the plans? Let us know in our comments section below

Architect “happy” with result

Project architect Steve Brown said he was “happy” the plan went through.

He added: “It fully met planning policy and the design is appropriate for the area.

“It’s a working harbour that happens to be in a conservation area.”

Mr Brown had attended the council’s site visit last Tuesday.

Debate before Port Erroll harbour cafe plans approved

In the weeks before the decision, debate has raged over the scheme.

Aberdeenshire Council received 81 objections to the development.

The Port Erroll Heritage Group and Cruden Community Council also took against the plan, amid warnings it amounted to “corporate vandalism”.

Port Erroll harbour. Picture by Kami Thomson

However, 62 letters of support were submitted in favour of the cafe.

Those backing the development said it would bring new jobs, boost tourism and bring benefits to the local economy.

The applicants, a family local to Cruden Bay, said that opening the eatery had been a dream “for years”.

New cafe could secure future of crumbling port

Port Erroll Harbour Ltd will now lease the land for the cafe.

Harbour director Ian Edwards had said repair work to the port had been estimated at more than £2 million.

And cash from the cafe would help to keep the harbour up and running for many years to come, he explained.

Plans for a larger Heritage Centre at the harbour had been created by Port Erroll Harbour trustees in 2014 but never came to fruition.

A survey carried out at the time revealed that of 94 per cent of respondents said a café was the “most desired facility needed in the village”.

The picturesque harbour was formed between 1875 and 1880 by the Earl of Erroll and is still used today by a small number of boats.

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