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St Fergus guesthouse to become home and Aberdam takeaway deemed ‘unsuitable’ for Shiprow

This week's round-up also features news on an Aberchirder church hall being turned into a holiday home.

The Keyhead Guesthouse at St Fergus
The Keyhead Guesthouse in St Fergus has been empty for years. Image: Kenny Elrick/Roddie Reid

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

This week’s instalment has a look at the changing face of the north-east hospitality industry, after a bruising few years.

The owner of the Keyhead Guesthouse, at St Fergus, says there has been zero interest in the site between Fraserburgh and Peterhead since it went on the market.

He’s now seeking permission to turn it into a house instead.

But we start this week’s round-up with plans to turn a former solicitors office in Aberdeen into a new guesthouse.

Concerns about lack of information on city centre guesthouse

Edinburgh-based hospitality firm, Caj UK Pvt Ltd may be facing an uphill struggle when it comes to their plans for Bon-Accord Square in Aberdeen.

The company wants to turn the former Mackie and Dewar solicitors’ office into a new guesthouse.

Aberdeen’s Bon-Accord Square. Image: Google Maps

It comes after the building was put up for sale at an asking price of £250,000.

However, one neighbour is suspicious about the scheme…

Mrs S Mann, who lives nearby at the top end of Union Street, fears it will be used as a “boarding house/hostel” specialising in short-term lets.

The building earmarked for the change. Image: Google Maps

She questions why there is the need for a guesthouse to cater to tourists when there are a number of “struggling” similar establishments nearby.

The resident adds: “Neighbours should be made aware and be given ALL of the information.”

Aberdeen City Council’s waste team has rubbished the plans too, slamming the lack of information on where bins will be stored.

Nursery taking over hostel block used by scientists visiting Aberdeen

Meanwhile, a nursery group is taking over a former hostel used by the James Hutton Institute’s science centre on Macaulay Drive in Aberdeen.

It’s mainly been reserved for visiting students or scientists over the years.

The section shaded in red is being taken over. Image Bright Horizons

Two thirds of the Cunningham Building has been a nursery for some time, while the other part of it has been used as a six-bed complex for the brainy visitors.

The change, which has now been approved by Aberdeen City Council, will allow the Bright Horizons Nursery group to take over the whole building.

It will be turned into space for children aged 2-3, a laundry and a kitchen.

Dobbies delay on major plans for new shops at Lang Stracht site

A lot can happen in three-and-a-half years, and Dobbies could little expect what was coming around the corner when the Aberdeen garden centre formed expansion plans in early 2020.

The Lang Stracht venue submitted proposals for seven “concession units” on March 5, 2020. And, well, you know what happened next.

Dobbies Garden Centre on Aberdeen’s Lang Stracht. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

The units, along with a covered walkway, would be for traders to sell other goods related to the main offering at the garden centre.

Dobbies said this would help keep cash coming in during quieter times of year, outside the spring and Christmas rushes.

A Waitrose foodhall opened in the store a few months ago, providing a welcome boost in income. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

By the time it was approved on July 1, 2020, we were all being told we were only allowed to leave the house if we stood two metres away from other people.

And the after-effects of the Covid pandemic have been long-lasting, particularly on the retail sector.

What happened to Dobbies plans?

New documents submitted to Aberdeen City Council state: “As a result of the pandemic and the subsequent delays this brought, Dobbies, have not yet been able to move forward with this development.”

The firm is now seeking permission to remove one condition from the consent granted three years ago.

This image, from another Dobbies in  Scotland, shows the idea that bosses were considering for the Aberdeen store. Image: Avison Young

They say a stipulation about plans to plant trees around the new area is holding them back.

The company would now like to “make material changes” to this idea, which would “further improve the quality of biodiversity of the site”.

And Dobbie’s insists it still plans to take the scheme forward “in the near future”.

A design image of the proposal. Image: Avison Young

Huntly charity to future-proof home

Huntly-based Gordon Rural Action want to make changes to their “prominent” base in the town.

From the building at 55 Gordon Street, volunteers and employees dispense advice, operate a charity shop and run a baby bank along with a school uniform exchange.

The front of the Huntly building. Image: McWilliam Lippe architects

That means there can be as many as 40 folk working in there at any one time.

Gordon Rural Action now wants to “make alterations to secure the long term future of the fabric, and improve the services they provide”.

They want to completely remove the rear block, to make way for a purpose-built replacement, which will allow more light in and create room for solar panels.

This shows how the front could be made to look more traditional. Image: McWilliam Lippe architects

The group also hopes to relocate the toilets to make access “more private”, and the boardroom will be downsized to create space for a flexible room.

New signs would be added to the shop too, with an improved frontage matching The Bikery next door and the surrounding historic area.

The charity is a lifeline for many. Image: McWilliam Lippe architects

Papers sent to Aberdeenshire Council conclude: “The areas of building being replaced will improve the standard of the building fabric, upgrading its thermal performance.

“This in turn will reduce the heating load and the building’s reliance on fossil fuels.”

Aberchirder church to become new visitor spot

A few miles away in Aberchirder, the council has blessed proposals to turn a church hall into a new visitor destination.

The plans, revealed in the Press and Journal earlier this year, will see the dilapidated building on the corner of North Street and Cornhill Road become a short-term holiday home.

Here’s how the building looks just now:

The West Hall hit the market for just £25,000 in 2022. Image: Google Maps
The West Hall in Aberchirder as it looks today. Image: Google Maps
The mezzanine and ceiling in Aberchirder’s West Hall has seen better days. Image: Etch Architects

And these images show how it will look after developers BC Properties and Investments complete the revamp: 

An artist impression of what the former Aberchirder Church will look like after renovation works. Image: etch
An artist impression of the first floor bedroom. Image: Etch Architects
The proposed kitchen and dining area. Image: Etch Architects

Mearns cemetery extension could create space for next 100 years

Fetteresso Cemetery, outside Stonehaven, is “rapidly approaching full capacity”.

The problem has been creeping up on the council, with officials spending 10 years looking for other sites.

However, luck finally came their way when the field adjacent to the existing graveyard became available – and the authority quickly snapped it up.

Space is running out at Fetteresso Cemetery. Image: DC Thomson 

The council has now officially lodged plans for the new cemetery, with an accompanying car park.

Documents say it’s big enough “to meet the needs of the public of Stonehaven and surrounding areas for years to come”.

They add: “We are also proposing to create a footpath from the existing cemeteries to the new extension to allow easier access.”

Graves have been in short supply. Image: DC Thomson 

How long will graveyard be used for?

And they are really planning ahead when it comes to this boneyard, which will be rolled out in a few phases…

The first is estimated to last 42 years, with about 38 burials a year.

While lying unused, the rest of the site will be “sown with wildflower/grass”.

The council also says there’s potential for people to purchase memorial benches.

Mill Inn petrol station plans approved despite church protests

Last week, Planning Ahead relayed the concerns of parishioners at Stonehaven’s St James Episcopal Church.

They had implored Aberdeenshire Council not to endorse plans for a “loud” new car wash on Dunnottar Avenue, just yards away from their historic kirk.

The Mill Inn filling station. Image: Google Maps

Among other things, they said the sound of customers blasting their motors clean with powerful jet-wash hoses could disturb the peace at funerals.

However, days after we reported their concerns, it transpired that their noise fears had fallen on deaf ears.

St James the Great Episcopal Church on nearby Arbuthnott Street. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson 

Aberdeenshire Council has now given Motor Fuel Group Ltd’s proposal for the Mill Inn petrol station the go-ahead.

They say the jet washes should be used only between 7am and 9pm from Monday to Friday, and between 8am on 9pm on Sundays and bank holidays.

And officials have also placed noise limits on the facilities while they are in operation.

Is Aberdam ‘unsuitable’ for Shiprow home?

An Aberdeen foodie hotspot has been ordered to take action to stay at its city centre premises.

Dutch fries firm Aberdam has been a part of Aberdeen’s Shiprow revolution since 2021, helping transform the downtrodden area into something altogether more trendy.

The takeaway is popular for its indulgent fries, which come with a huge selection of sauces. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

But a few weeks ago, in the 100th edition of Planning Ahead, we revealed that its owners had never secured permission to operate from the spot.

And since then, council experts have been scrutinising whether they should be allowed to stay.

Loaded burgers are a hit too. Image: DC Thomson

The environmental health department now says the 76-78 Shiprow spot “does not appear” to have suitable ventilation in place to control cooking odours.

They say it’s “necessary” for “food hygiene purposes”.

And this, they say, means that Aberdam is “currently unsuitable” for the location.

Boffins say the “non-compliance with relevant guidance” is creating “the risk of an adverse odour impact on the vicinity”.

Some extra work might be needed at the small unit. Image: DC Thomson

So what does this mean for Aberdam?

The chip supremos will now need to install an extraction system in order to keep cooking its moreish portions from the unit.

And they will need to commission a study into how cooking smells affect the area before the council gives it the official stamp of approval.

Aberdam prides itself on serving up decadent dirty burgers and loaded fries. Image: Aberdam

Do you think Shiprow is better for having businesses like Aberdam? Let us know in our comments section below

Unwanted St Fergus guesthouse to be turned into home

The Keyhead Guesthouse and Caravan Park at St Fergus, just off the main road between Peterhead and Fraserburgh, has been on the market for more than four years.

In 2019, sales agents slashed its asking price from £345,000 to £295,000.

The in 2020, the pandemic hit and the business served its final customers.

The Keyhead Guesthouse at St Fergus. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

The nine-bedroom venue features a dining room, lounge bar and public bar, along seven static caravans on the grounds and space for six tourers.

There’s also an owners chalet with three bedrooms and its own garden.

But although advertised as an “ideal opportunity”, it hasn’t attracted any interest.

‘I have had zero income from this building’

And now, owner Lubos Barta has given up trying to offload it as a hospitality business.

Mr Barta is seeking Aberdeenshire Council’s permission to turn it into a large home for himself instead.

Papers state that it “is no longer viable as a business”.

The St Fergus guesthouse is fenced off. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Mr Barta explains: “Since 2020, I have received zero income from this building.

“I have an official letter from my accountant confirming this, along with my profit and loss accounts that reflect this.

“I will not be advertising this building for let any more. This building will be used solely as a residential dwelling for myself.”

The St Fergus guesthouse was advertised in the Press and Journal in 1994. Image: British Newspaper Archive

Caravan site could have future

However, Mr Barta remains optimistic that the caravan side of the business could yet pick up.

His letter to the council explains that, from the converted guesthouse, he could look after the complex as an “on-site presence”.

He is hopeful that the planning department will decide that “it is better to retain part of the business than losing it altogether”.

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

Bon-Accord Square guesthouse

Bright Horizons Nursery expanding

Dobbie’s garden centre latest

Huntly charity building

Aberchirder church transformation approved

Cemetery extension

Stonehaven petrol station latest

Aberdam needs action to stay on Shiprow 

St Fergus guesthouse plans