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Baby yoga classes ‘too noisy’ for Cults and locals’ dismay as plumber takes over Aberdeen garden

Meanwhile, permission has been granted for a Johnshaven dream home - despite complaints from a crabby neighbour...

The Cults baby yoga plans sparked uproar.
The Cults baby yoga plans sparked uproar. Image: Clarke Cooper/DC Thomson

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.

Portsoy Caravan Park
The site, run by Portsoy Community Enterprise, on Links Road. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.

Portsoy Caravan Park
Portsoy Caravan Park hosts a mix of tourers and static caravans. Image: DC Thomson

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.

former St John The Baptist Church
The building dates back to 1840. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson
The aspire restaurant inside the former church
Here’s what it looks like inside. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

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.

The sign outside reading 'Aspire restaurant - | 01261 842983
One of the signs at the old place of worship. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

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.

The sign outside the restaurant
The vinyl sign might need to be “revisited”. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

A short stroll away, plans to transform another old church are in the works.

Earlier this month we revealed that the Portsoy Church and Hall on Seafield Terrace could soon become a home.

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.

The Johnshaven proposal was revealed in Planning Ahead this summer.

The Johnshaven depot as it looks today
The depot as it looks today. Image: Google Maps

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.

An impression of how the depot could look
Here is how the depot will be upgraded. Image: Gary Sinclair architecture
An impression of how the depot could look
It would be built using eco-friendly material. Image: Gary Sinclair architecture

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.

Inside the old depot
The inside of the old depot. Image: Gary Sinclair architecture

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 depot building
The depot building is seen here with the crab-shaped abode on the hillside overlooking it. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.

The crab house
The crab house, which has since been painted red. Image: Galbraith

‘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.”

Mearns house with windows overlooking the sea
Sunlight streaming into the Mearns house, with the sea view shown. Image: Galbraith

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”.

An aerial view of The Crab House
The Crab House as seen from above. Image: Galbraith

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:

A drawing showing the existing site
This shows the view from the crab-shaped home as things stand. Image: Gary Sinclair Architecture
And this depicts the difference once the house is built. Image:Gary Sinclair Architecture

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”

The building was used by the council as a roads depot between 1923 and 1995
The building was used by the council as a roads depot between 1923 and 1995. Image: Google Maps

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.

Broomhill Road
Broomhill Road, just off Holburn Street. Image: Google Maps

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.”

The flats on broomhill road on a map
Space at the back of the flats will be transformed. Image: Google Maps

‘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.”

The AJM Plumbing base on Broomhill Road.
The AJM Plumbing base on Broomhill Road. Image: Google Maps

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”.

A drawing of the proposed storage area
This shows the area which will be converted for storage purposes. Image: AJM Plumbing

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.

Broomhill road in Aberdeen
The street is home to several blocks of flats. Image: Google Maps

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

Last week, Planning Ahead featured a pair of schemes aimed at enhancing Union Street.

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 Halifax branch
The Halifax branch will shut early into 2024. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.

The Halifax branch in Aberdeen
The machine and sign will be removed under the plans. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.”

A Halifax cash machine
Cash machines are becoming rarer as banks close their doors. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.

The Cults baby yoga studio was planned for Station Road
Station Road in Cults. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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 building is a former workplace
The building is a former workplace. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.”

The building with a to let sign on it
The building is in an industrial estate. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.”

The area where the Cults baby yoga classes are to be held
People would have to travel down a narrow lane just off the A93 Aberdeen to Braemar road to attend Cults baby yoga classes. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.”

The area that could face congestion
Residents predict congestion in the area. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.

Cars parked outside the site
The Cults baby yoga plans appear to have been parked for now. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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:

Portsoy caravan park proposals 

Aspire restaurant signs

Johnshaven depot to become home

Broomhill garden row

Halifax bank leaving Aberdeen

Cults baby yoga plans