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Robotics firm to transform old store at Aberdeen Harbour and council slams ‘unjustified’ demolition of blaze-hit Braemar hotel

Aberdeenshire Council says the owner of the Braemar Lodge has failed to explain why the site was completely cleared.

Nauticus Robotics is planning to transform an old ship store at Aberdeen Harbour.
Nauticus Robotics is planning to transform an old ship store at Aberdeen Harbour. Image: Ben Hendry/Mhorvan Park

Welcome to Planning Ahead – our weekly round-up of the latest proposals lodged across the north-east.

This Monday, we take a look at changing tides at Aberdeen Harbour – with a robotics firm looking to take over an old ship store.

The prospect of “underwater Transformers” being built at the 12th century port is just one way the city is moving with the times.

Elsewhere, there are plans to give a disused church a snazzy 21st century makeover…

Illuminated signs for Aberdeen church amid major revamp

The Aberdeen North Church of St Andrew is about 120 years old – but the site has been a place of worship since the 1700s.

Now it’s being modernised to welcome a new congregation.

The Aberdeen North Church of St Andrew has seating tor 1,000 worshippers. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

In 2017, the Queen Street Church amalgamated with St Mark’s Church on Rosemount Viaduct, leaving the building empty.

It was later bought by Trinity Church – with parishioners planning a move from their base nearby on King Street.

Trinity Church is presently based in this grand building on the corner of Urquhart Road and King Street. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Major plans to refurbish, repair and extend the B-listed Queen Street building were approved in 2019.

At the time, Reverend David Gibson said: “The church has almost become an anonymous building, with people walking past without seeing it.”

David Gibson outside the Queen Street building in 2018. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

Now the Cruden Trust, the charity which runs Trinity Church, has lodged more plans for their new home.

And they want to make sure it won’t be missed – even in the dark.

Leader Simon Barker is seeking permission for illuminated lettering on the side facing Aberdeen Arts Centre.

This design image shows how it could look. Image: WGA
The building could undergo significant changes before being reborn. Image: WGA

Could corner shop be turned into cafe?

Nearby, plans have been formed to turn a corner shop into a new 20-seat restaurant.

The 176 King Street spot, on the corner with Summerfield Terrace, is currently the Zabka off-licence.

The plans have been put forward by owner Dilshad Wastaziz. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Extension at £920k mansion on Rubislaw Den South

The new owner of an Aberdeen mansion sold for £920,000 last year is planning some improvements.

Nicol Baird has put forward plans for the property on Rubislaw Den South, which is one of the city’s most expensive streets.

Rubislaw Den South has been recorded as one of Scotland’s dearest places to live in the past. Image: Davidson Smith Architects

The B-listed Edwardian building, built in 1901, has five double bedrooms, four public rooms and a large attic games room across its three storeys.

It comes with 14 acres of mature private woodland and pathways.

The home was sold last spring. Image: Davidson Smith Architects

Mr Baird wants to demolish an extension at the back of the home, which has an out-of-place cement roof and PVC windows, to make way for a more fitting replacement.

The new structure would have “natural timber cladding to reflect the woodland feel of Rubislaw Den”.

The new owners want to do away with this extension. Image: Davidson Smith Architects

Other proposals include re-tiling the house’s roof and removing a potting shed.

Newmachar caravan park to offer more homes for older people

Nia Roo Park at Newmachar is described as “offering exclusive living for the over-50s”.

Posted by Nia Roo Retirement Park on Monday, 29 August 2022

The owners, Miller Parks, are now seeking permission to replace land previously occupied by 19 holiday let caravans with 14 permanent abodes.

They would be used as “special needs housing” for the “retirement community”.

The units would be created on land to the south of the existing park. Image: Google Maps

There has been a caravan park on the site since 1972.

But consultants Ryden say tourist interest has “significantly reduced over the years”, and the 19 run-down units were cleared from the site in 2020.

The new plans have been formed in response to “huge demand for retirement units”.

Neighbours fighting flats plan for former Banff care home

Meanwhile, in Banff, a former care home could be turned into a block of four flats.

Valeview Care Home on Bridge Street. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Valeview, on Bridge Street, offered respite care for adults with learning difficulties.

It closed about six years ago.

In 2020, permission to turn it into a house was granted. But now St Andrews-based Edradour 1725 Development wants to transform it into new apartments.

Neighbours are worried about the scheme. Image: Google Maps

However, neighbours are fighting the proposals…

Bridge Street resident George Flett says the four flats could bring as many as eight extra cars to the narrow road.

Next door neighbour Arizona Langford says three other properties use the access pend in the alley, and fears the change could cause “drastic inconvenience”.

She adds: “I do want the building to be repaired and in use, but this must be done with very careful consideration of the cramped situation.”

Bridge Street can be a tight squeeze. Image: Google Maps

‘This is my safe haven’

And Elizabeth Williams is worried about “prolonged disruption” during the works.

She adds: “I feel safe at my home, this is my safe haven.

“I don’t tend to travel due to health issues (mobility) and I spend the majority of my time in the garden with the dog.

“I am very anxious and worried that this work will very much impact my day to day life.”

Repairs for collapsed wall at Banff Castle

Banff Castle is one of the coastal town’s gems.

The Banff Castle Community Association is seeking permission to install railings and a gate at a collapsed section of boundary wall.

A large part of the structure surrounding the historic monument came tumbling down when a vehicle crashed into it.

The wall as it looks today. Image: Mantell Ritchie
It has been fenced off for some time. Image: Mantell Ritchie

The plans to replace it with a gate and railings have raised some concerns from heritage chiefs though…

The council’s environment team say they’d look “out of context”, and more consideration should be given to repairing the wall originally created by the 3rd Earl of Seafield in the 18th century.

Here is how the section could look. Image: Mantell Ritchie

Inverurie Specsavers sets sights on empty unit next door

The Specsavers on Station Road in Inverurie wants to expand into the old Attic clothes shop next door.

The fashion retailer moved to West High Street last June.

The neighbouring opticians has now lodged plans to take over the space – using it for three extra consultation rooms, a staff room, office and small call centre.

The Specsavers could soon be able to handle more appointments. Image: Google Maps

But as part of the plans, Specsavers needs to install upgraded air conditioning equipment to keep its NHS licence.

Papers sent to Aberdeenshire Council explain that specialists have recommended the seven modern units to ensure the firm can keep trading from the spot.

The optician is in a busy part of the town centre. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Fresh air flow is needed in medical test rooms, with a “constant temperature” required for the “delicate equipment”.

The documents explain that, without this new system for the added space, the test rooms “would not meet the standards set out in their NHS contract agreement”.

Church wants to put solar panels on roof of hall

Members of Fetteresso Parish Church are eager to put solar panels on the roof of the hall on Stonehaven’s Bath Street.

The panels would be placed across the roof of the hall rather than the church itself. Image: Google Maps

They would be spread across the flat roof of the hall adjoining the picturesque 1813 place of worship.

In addition to that, they want to put an eco-friendly and cost-saving air source heat pump in the A-listed church itself.

Fetteresso Parish Church. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Braemar locals raise complaints about hotel demolition

The huge fire at the Braemar Lodge Hotel last March is burned into the memory of the many locals who witnessed the horrific scenes.

Flames spread to a gas tank, with the huge explosion causing the flaming building major “impact damage”.

The enormous blaze engulfed the Deeside venue. Image: Geva Blackett

The site was quickly fenced off.

And in the weeks after, owners Braigh Marr Ltd entered into urgent talks with Aberdeenshire Council about what to do with the “dangerous” remnants.

Braemar Lodge was sealed off before the disputed work began in July. Image: Kami Thomson / DC Thomson

E-mails sent by senior planners advised the firm to do “what is needed to make the site safe”.

This did not, it is now being argued, give the owners carte blanche to raze the building.

Earlier this year, Planning Ahead reported that retrospective permission was being sought for the work to remove all traces of the C-listed building.

Since then, locals have sent the authority letters of objection – with one councillor even suggesting the owners might have broken the law.

We went to the scene last March to speak with shocked locals:

🔴 LIVE: Braemar Lodge FireFull story here:

Posted by Evening Express on Wednesday, 16 March 2022

What are the concerns about the Braemar Lodge hotel demolition?

Derek Mutch, who lives on Chapel Brae, made a daring dash into the burning building as the “first person at the scene”.

He is among those now blasting its complete destruction.

Mr Mutch said: “I walked through the kitchen to try and raise the alarm but found no one.

“Braemar Lodge was a beautiful old building and important to the economy and history of the village. It was very surprising that it was totally demolished without consent.

“I was under the impression that the blocks could have been stored on-site and possibly
reused to restore the building.”

Demolition taking place last summer. Image: Kath Flannnery/DC Thomson

James Wood, who lives on Glenshee Road, fears the demolition will now make it “difficult, if not impossible, to restore the property to its former status”.

He wants any replacement to “match the original design and footprint of the previous property”.

The empty land as it looks now. Supplied image

What do council heritage experts say?

The council’s environment team said a “dangerous buildings notice” allowed demolition only “to a point that the site was made safe”.

The experts say further work “would have to be justified”, and they argue the papers submitted this year fall short of achieving that.

They state: “It is considered that the report appears quite light in the justification for full demolition.

“We would therefore ask that the applicant provides justification from the structural engineer as to why the decision for full demolition was taken.”

Nothing remains of the attraction apart from this sign. Supplied image

Was the law broken?

Local councillor Geva Blackett, who lives nearby, says it could be a “criminal offence” to have completed the works without consent.

Mrs Blackett says the demolition of the Braemar Lodge is one of the “most serious breaches” of a planning charter enforced by the Cairngorms National Park Authority since its inception in 2003.

Geva Blackett says owners “wilfully disregarded” rules. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

She argues that the “considerable delay” between fencing off the hotel in March and knocking it down in July “clearly demonstrates that there was no imminent danger to the public”.

And the independent councillor, objecting in her capacity as a neighbour, accuses the owners of a “willful disregard of the listed status of the building”.

Mrs Blackett took this image at the height of the drama last March.

Robotics firm to bring ‘underwater Transformers’ to Aberdeen Harbour

Butlers Ship Stores, along Blaikie’s Quay at Aberdeen Harbour, could be given a very futuristic facelift by a robotics firm.

The building, which is near the Northlink ferry terminal, sits in the shadow of towering Union Point office block.

A robotics firm wants to set up shop at Aberdeen Harbour, in the building seen here between these two ships. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Texas-based Nauticus Robotics is now planning to transform it into a north-east premises.

The eco-friendly firm describes itself as “the future of underwater robotics”.

And its “Aquanaut” creation has even been dubbed “the Transformer under the sea”.

Watch it in action here:

The company says it helps the environment as offshore firms can leave large vessels and crews behind while improving safety by “eliminating divers”.

It was founded by Nicolaus Radford, an entrepreneur worth $5 million.

Papers submitted to Aberdeen City Council seek permission for alterations to the building.

It comes after our energy pundit Dick Winchester hailed the arrival of Nauticus Robotics to the north-east. 

The Aberdeen branch of the robotics firm would be right next to the harbour. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Robotics plan comes as Aberdeen Harbour bounces back

The application comes at a positive time for the port, with the South Harbour project showing signs of paying off.

Union Point, formerly known as Salvesen Tower, became a symbol of the area’s post-downturn fall from grace when it went up for auction for a rock-bottom £20,000.

Union Point has bounced back. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

But in a remarkable turnaround, it’s been filling up with workers.

After a revamp and rebrand, it’s gone from lying empty to being almost full.

And there’s been knock-on benefits too – in October local firm The Food Project opened up a new base next to the tower.

You can see this week’s plans for yourself using these links:

Church revamp plans

176 King Street cafe

Rubislaw Den South extension 

Newmachar caravan park

Banff care home

Banff Castle collapsed wall

Specsavers expansion and air conditioning

Fetteresso church solar panels and air source heat pump

Braemar hotel complaints

Aberdeen Harbour robotics plan