Welcome to Planning Ahead – our weekly round-up of the latest proposals across the north-east.
Not to be confused with a cuddly sci-fi character, this week we take a look at baby yoga.
The phenomenon is supposed to help calm tots down and promote deep sleep, so it’s a big hit with new parents trying ways to ensure a good night’s kip.
But plans to bring it to Cults have come under fire from locals, who have raised fears about traffic troubles and even noise from accompanying baby-friendly music sessions.
But before we get to that, we start with good news for anyone thinking of a holiday close to home next year…
New glamping pods to lure more tourists to Portsoy
The owners of Portsoy Caravan Park have been given the go-ahead to upgrade the popular coastal getaway.
They will now build a new facilities block, bin store, and four modern glamping pods at the site.
The block will come with laundry facilities, motorhome service points, an outdoor cleaning area and showers.
It will replace existing shower and toilet buildings, which will be demolished.
Restaurant sign on historic church raises concerns
Elsewhere in the picturesque seaside community, the former St John The Baptist Church church was transformed into the Aspire restaurant earlier this year.
It came after consent for the major renovation was granted at the end of 2021.
But the owners have now submitted a fresh plea for permission – for sign boards at the front door.
David Urquhart never realised these would fall under planning rules, hence the delay in getting the latest paperwork together.
Council history buffs have now examined the signage to see if it should be allowed to remain.
They have no qualms with one Aspire board enclosed in a wooden frame…
But they frown on a separate vinyl one as “alien” to the B-listed building, and they want answers on how the ultimate removal of each could affect the masonry.
A short stroll away, plans to transform another old church are in the works.
Johnshaven depot to become huge home – despite Crab House complaint
In another of our seaside villages, this time along the Mearns coast, plans to turn a historic depot into a stunning new home have been rubber-stamped.
And who better to turn the old council building into their dream home than an architect?
Kirriemuir’s Gary Sinclair and wife Michelle previously unveiled images of how it would look, with its own studio for Mr Sinclair.
The couple pledged to “retain, refurbish and re-use” as much of the derelict building as they could, while kitting out the property to consume as little energy as possible.
It has been there for about 200 years, but has lain vacant for the past three decades.
Neighbour says height of new home will stymie his solar panels
The decaying depot happens to be just a few yards away from Johnshaven’s quirkiest home – The Crab House.
The coastal eco home has been built in the form of a crustacean, with “claws” at the front and a pair of circular windows resembling eyes.
Christopher Pearson moved into the crustaceous house after it was sold for £375,000 in 2021.
In a letter of objection to Aberdeenshire Council, Mr Pearson explains that the renovation would impact his eye-catching home.
‘It could impact ability to harvest solar rays’
He adds: “The Crab House will be the property most negatively impacted by the new build.
“The proposed new height of the new build will take away a considerable portion of our only real sea view from our property.
“But more importantly, the overshadowing of the excessive new height of the proposed design could impact on our ability to harvest solar rays for heating most of our home.
“We are a solar-aligned property which harvests the sun’s rays to heat our property.”
Ground-mounted solar panels approved earlier this year (and featured in Planning Ahead at the time) could, they fear, also be affected.
Mr Pearson also questions the need to create a “stargazing platform” at the renovated depot, arguing this is not worth losing his “view and primary heating source” for.
West Street resident Patricia Anderson also objected, saying the house would not fit in with the “quaint ‘fisher’ type village”.
What happened in the end?
Since the complaint was lodged, Mr Sinclair has conducted more studies on how his fixer-upper project would affect The Crab House.
Fresh images have been submitted showing the difference in heights, and how this will be seen from the unusual property:
And council planning chiefs have now given the scheme their blessing.
They say: “The site is distanced from the neighbouring property at the Crab House, by West Street and the vacant warehouse building.
“Due to the separation distance from the site (approximately 17 metres), along with the intervening buildings and public road, the perceived impact will be negligible”
Garden ‘ruined’ as plumber expands with storage space
A neighbourhood spat has also broken out in Aberdeen…
Residents on the city’s Broomhill Road were left fuming when the AJM Plumbing firm made moves to turn garden ground at its rear into a new storage area.
The space at their 16 Broomhill Road premises, close to its junction with Holburn Street and Holburn Road, soon became the subject of a turf war.
The plumbing company described the area (which it owns) as “neglected”, saying it was needed to store ladders and scaffolding.
A 2m timber fence would be erected around it.
‘A massive eyesore’
Residents in the adjacent block of flats were horrified to see work begin. The communal patch had been used as an unofficial shared garden area until it was bricked off without permission.
In an objection to the council, Sue Allan said the storage scheme would “ruin the private garden area” which was a key factor when she purchased her property.
Scott Tulloch added: “This plan will block sunlight, decrease property value and will be a massive eyesore to the community around the area.”
‘It may seem unkempt, but this is by design’
Ryan Robertson worried that the storage area “might attract thieves”, while Iain Sawers described how much the community values the garden space.
He said: “I strongly object to the applicant’s definition of the existing land use as ‘neglected’.
“Our garden at 12 Broomhill Road is used to feed many varieties of birds. It may seem unkempt but this is by design.
“In 2021 we made a concerted effort to cut back some of the overgrowth and have been planning to improve the area further whilst keeping it ‘wild’.
“During Covid lockdowns this safe space was heavily utilised by residents.”
Noise ‘will disturb people working from home’
Oliver Williams, who owns one of the flats, said: “I know of a few residents who currently work from home either full-time or in a hybrid cycle.
“The disturbance and nuisance caused by noise pollution during working hours would deeply affect work life for residents at 12 and 14 Broomhill Road.”
Change is ‘vital’ for Aberdeen plumbing firm’s future
AJM fired back, stressing that it is the “sole owner” of the land.
Boss Alan McIntosh said the storage scheme would “improve this neglected area”, with work “neatly and tastefully done”.
He added: “We are a small but expanding business, and it would be our intention to use this area of ground as storage for scaffolding and ladders.
“This is required for the safe running of the business, complying with HSE. Long-term storage and accessibility to this equipment is vital for our business.”
What happened at crunch council meeting?
The matter recently went before a meeting of Aberdeen City Council’s planning committee.
Councillors sought assurances the scaffolding would be stored flat, concerned it might “tower over” the remaining garden grounds.
Emotional objector Sue Allan appeared via video-link – describing her “shock” at the plans to “reduce her garden size by three quarters”.
“I’m really upset about it, we’re all just absolutely gutted,” she said.
“I loved my little garden, I used to go out with my neighbour and have a coffee while we looked at the birds. Now it’s just an eyesore.”
The committee unanimously approved the application, however.
Halifax bank prepares to leave Aberdeen city centre
Developers are moving forward with turning old offices into flats, while an unsightly granite building nearby is getting a proper sprucing up.
But this week there’s a reminder of the stark challenges the street is facing, as Halifax forges ahead with plans to close its city centre bank.
The high street giant is gearing up to close the branch on January 11, blaming a drastic fall in walk-ins.
Bosses have now submitted plans seeking permission to rip out the ATMs from the branch at 52-54 Union Street.
They will also remove the logo and an alarm box from the listed building.
Papers state: “Since the bank is to close, there is no purpose in having signage to attract people to the property, it would be misleading.
“When the bank is vacated it will not be possible to service the ATM and so it is to be removed.”
The Union Street tenement block it’s part of was built at the turn of the 19th century, when the mile-long thoroughfare itself was being formed.
The 52-54 address was even used as offices by the Press and Journal in the 1970s, maintaining a city centre presence after production moved to Mastrick.
Cults baby yoga plans spark uproar
Catherine Bell runs Moo Music in Aberdeen, a “fun, interactive” venture aimed at babies and toddlers.
Sessions take place in Danestone, Kingswells and Peterculter.
She recently applied to put a former office and workshop in Cults to somewhat novel use – as a baby yoga centre.
The Station Road unit had been advertised to lease for £13,000 per year.
Blueprints show how offices and workspace would become two separate “classrooms”.
Papers explain that classes and workshops for pregnant women would take place there, “right through to postnatal and beyond”.
The main selling points would be:
- Daily music and movement classes for babies and toddlers
- Six-week block bookings of baby massage and yoga courses
- And weekly baby yoga and sensory classes
Workshops on weaning and first aid, potty training, baby reflexology and Makaton were also envisaged – along with the odd first or second birthday party.
Baby yoga would be a boost to Cults, say applicants
Documents sent to Aberdeen City Council state: “The Cults business centre has developed over the past few years to house a host a variety of businesses, all within walking distance of the centre of the community.
“With Cults being a sought-after location, units to develop new business don’t come around very often.”
They say this would provide something the Aberdeen suburb “needs”, in a “convenient location”.
And architects stressed that music would be played only at a very low level.
So what did locals think of the plans?
But various residents raised concerns, largely around traffic trouble and potential noise.
Donella Sutherland, of Westerton Road, wrote about potential hazards in her letter of objection.
She said: “I am concerned about the parking issues, this business would bring to the area.
“There is a single lane, blind-cornered one-way road to the area, with no pedestrian
“I have concerns about the safety of infants/toddlers attending this facility.”
Community leaders in two minds about Cults baby yoga
Despite the applicants’ pledge to be careful with the volume button, John Gallagher argued against the “noise pollution” he predicted would occur.
And John Lewis said: “My primary concern revolves around the insufficiency of parking
facilities for the anticipated influx.”
Karin Robertson said it would “exacerbate the already crowded and perilous
conditions”, but the community council remained neutral.
Member Colin Morsley said the group could see the benefits of the plan – while acknowledging residents’ concerns.
Do you think residents were right to object? Let us know in our comments section below
What happened to the Cults baby yoga plans?
But shortly after the chorus of boos from locals, the music school plans appear to have been scrapped.
The council’s website notes them as withdrawn.
And now letting agents FG Burnett say the unit is “back on the market due to abortive negotiations”.
It comes after plans to turn the nearby former Cults Railway Station into a cafe were approved – despite similar traffic concerns.
You can see the plans for yourself here:
Cults baby yoga plans