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Aberdeen University lecturer faces tearing down shed after neighbours complain about ‘monstrosity’ in historic area

The plans for the Old Aberdeen shed came in for criticism
The controversial Old Aberdeen shed, pictured here before it was surrounded by bushes.

A green-fingered academic faces tearing down her garden shed after angry neighbours branded it a “monstrosity”.

Anna Riemen, a specialist in trauma and orthopaedic surgery, lectures at Aberdeen University and lives in a picturesque cottage yards from the campus.

Friends say her “main solace” is the garden at her Bank Cottage home on the junction of Sunnybank Road and the Spital.

With that in mind, she erected a 4m high wooden hut last year to indulge her passion – little suspecting it would sow dissent in the community.

So what was the problem with the Old Aberdeen shed?

The lecturer didn’t, at the time, realise that she lived in the Old Aberdeen Conservation Area – meaning special planning permission would be required.

This summer she was served an “enforcement notice” ordering her to take it down.

In recent months, huge bushes have been planted around the property’s perimeter – hiding the shed.

Since then, the health expert has submitted a planning application pleading for the local authority to let her keep it in place.

And she has gone on a major planting spree, with shrubbery now “camouflaging” views of the outbuilding.

But her neighbours remain unimpressed, demanding the council order its destruction.

In response Dr Riemen secured the backing of many of the city’s top medics, urging planning chiefs to disregard the local backlash.

Dr Riemen’s Bank Cottage home has a fairytale feel.

‘Old Aberdeen is a conservation area, not a wildlife park’

Raymond Leith, who lives nearby on Orchard Street, is just one unhappy neighbour. 

He described the structure as an “unsightly object”.

And he accused Dr Riemen of “attempting to disguise its existence” with recent planting around the perimeter of the garden.

He also took a dim view of the environmentally friendly bird-friendly sedum roof proposed, noting: “Old Aberdeen is a conservation area, not a wildlife park.”

The Old Aberdeen Heritage Society condemned the “visually intrusive” structure, demanding it be flattened.

Robert Rose said the “hideous eyesore” stands out “like a sore thumb”.

And Old Aberdeen Community Council said it was “very out-of-keeping”.

Trust them, they’re doctors…

Dr Riemen, originally from Germany, is also a respected researcher and a member of Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

Fellow orthopaedic surgeon Simon Barker, who lives nearby on High Street, is one contemporary who wrote to the council in her support.

The council was under doctors orders to approve the shed.

He said: “The shed is hardly on a scale nor of a design to conjure the level of ire from some objectors.

“One wonders what motivates such vehemence. I think it looks fine.

“I hope the council relents and the nasty comments are tempered.”

Another orthopaedic surgeon, William Ledingham from Banchory, chimed in with support.

He said: “Very supportive. This property needs a shed.”

Another view of the shed looking towards the Shakes n Cakes ice cream parlour on the Spital.

Mental health nurse Flaviyana Emmanuel lent her backing too, and Dr Caroline McCormack wrote in from Scone near Perth.

The NHS Tayside consultant geriatrician said: “I regularly passed this garden having worked in Aberdeen for many years as an undergraduate student and as a doctor.

“I’ve recently visited the site to have a look, and I feel the shed is appropriate for the location.”

Medical support for Old Aberdeen shed slammed

But neighbour Nicola Rose was left fuming by the health workers “supporting the applicant rather than the plans”.

The Orchard Street resident wrote a second letter to the local authority bemoaning the “recent flurry of support for this monstrosity”.

Do you agree with the Old Aberdeen neighbours? Let us know in our comments section below

Bizarre exchanges as councillors debate shed’s merits

The matter has now come before Aberdeen City Council’s planning committee, with some unusual exchanges taking place…

Community-spirited Anna Rieman has a ‘herb exchange’ at the side of her home.

Former Lord Provost Barney Crockett quoted cartoon sailor Popeye when expressing his incredulity at the plans.

“I’ve stoods enough and I can’t stands no more,” the keen local historian said.

“It’s a very poor quality building in a very valuable historic environment.”

Dr Riemen did find one supporter in Marie Boulton, who puzzled some onlookers by likening the shed to the magical school of witchcraft and wizardry from Harry Potter.

She said: “Personally I think it’s more Hogwarts meets a conservation area rather than B&Q when it comes to a garden shed.

The independent councillor even suggested the shed could “inspire children” as she urged members to “embrace change”.

‘You canna hide it behind a bush’

And the SNP’s Ciaran Mcrae compared it to the “tourist attraction” sheds at Fittie.

Planning committee convener Dell Henrickson said he “understood” the idea of “hiding it behind vegetation” but said the greenery was also unpleasant to look at.

Neil Copland concluded: “You canna just hide it behind a bush.

“Previously it’s been described as a Hansel and Gretel building, I would think it’s more like the big bad wolf personally.”

The application was refused by a narrow 7-6 vote.

Ciaran McRae said the big red bins beside the property were less welcome in the historic area.

Community council to remain vigilant

During their meeting this week, members of Old Aberdeen Community Council agreed to “watch this space” in case any appeal is lodged.

Councillor Henrickson, who was present, added: “The process of enforcement is ongoing, I believe.”

It comes after a close neighbour faced similar opprobrium for using “unauthorised granite” when rebuilding a wall in Old Aberdeen.

Dr Riemen has been contacted for comment.

You can see the application for the shed here or watch the meeting here.