Welcome to Planning Ahead – our weekly round-up of the latest proposals across the north-east.
This week’s instalment comes just a fortnight before Christmas Day, which can be a bit of a stressful point in the calendar when it comes to festive preparations.
So let’s distract ourselves with the plans of others – and our bumper instalment this week has everything from Mearns martial arts to Aberdeen Girlguides putting up a fight against housing plans… and a luxury dream home banjaxed by bats.
But what could be more festive than starting with a trip to the pub.
Wetherspoons to extend Union Street pub’s staff room
Anyone working in hospitality at this time of year will be relishing the sanctuary of the staff room, away from the hustle and bustle of rosey-cheeked reunions and hazily recalled work nights out.
And Wetherspoons is carrying out some work to enhance the employee areas in its Justice Mill venue on Aberdeen’s Union Street.
The C-listed building dates back to the Granite Mile’s inception in the early 1800s, and was previously used by a dressmaker, tailor and latterly as an Edinburgh Woolen Mill.
Spoons bosses want permission to create the new staff room on the second floor by converting a meeting room.
They also plan two new locker rooms, each with two toilet cubicles for male and female employees.
Last September, the Justice Mill’s plans for a new rooftop garden were approved by the council.
Work is taking place on the 423-425 Union Street building at the moment, with scaffolding erected around the front.
Inverurie fabrics store could become new coffee shop
Meanwhile, in Inverurie, Ozan Kaya wants to turn the former Butterfly Fabrics textiles shop at 48 West High Street into a cafe.
The beloved local business went fully online this summer, leaving the unit beside the Marmaris takeaway empty after more than a decade.
In an emotional Facebook post, management said: “We thought we were through the worst after surviving the pandemic.
“However, the shift in the retail landscape and the cost of living crisis has meant that we can no longer continue to trade as we are.”
Blueprints show that, after the proposed change of use, it would be equipped with a barista machine and a panini-maker.
A chilled section would also be built, offering a range of snacks.
There would be six seats for customers.
Birdwatcher’s huge tent to indulge hobby needs permission
An Aberdeenshire twitcher is having to retroactively apply for planning permission for a bird-watching marquee in her field.
Mrs P Lynch, who lives at Ythanbank near Ellon, says she never knew such consent was required to pursue her peaceful pastime.
She wants to have the tent out from April to October at her New Milton of Schivas home.
The property was sold for £180,000 last December.
Council homes plan downsized amid soaring costs
Back in Aberdeen, plans for dozens of new council houses at the former Craighill Primary School site are moving forward after being paused.
Work at the Kincorth spot was put on hold amid soaring construction costs, while the council re-tendered the contract.
Now, a pair of separate plans have been lodged seeking fresh consent for 87 homes there.
That’s a reduction from the 99 originally envisaged, with three-storey blocks now being built instead of the previously approved four levels.
The site had lain vacant since 2013 when the old school was razed.
Deja vu all over again elsewhere in Kincorth
And it’s a similar story elsewhere in the community, with the new council housing plans lodged (for the same reason) at the former Kincorth Academy site.
In this case, the number of homes is going down from 212 to 195 under the new proposals.
And four-storey blocks are being chopped down a level there too, while there will be fewer terraced houses and a “sight reduction” in the size of some.
St Fergus guesthouse to become home despite squash complaints
A St Fergus guesthouse will be turned into a house after owners failed to find a new taker for the business.
The Keyhead Guesthouse and Caravan Park, just off the main road between Peterhead and Fraserburgh, had been on the market for more than four years when the proposals were lodged.
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.
Alan Goodbrand, of Peterhead, objected as the plans would “block the access road to the Keyhead Squash Club”.
He explained: “The club is still a viable business and has regular use.
“The club also plays in Division 3 of the Grampian Squash Leagues.”
But the council said this would not be a reason to refuse the plan, hailing the idea of refurbishing the redundant building.
Stonehaven sensei aims to expand martial arts offering into Portlethen
Now, a Stonehaven sensei will be hoping for a similar show of support in his bid to secure a new base for his martial arts group.
Malcolm Evans, of Lions Den TCK, wants to take his band of high-spirited high-kickers into office space at Bankhead Drive.
It’s currently based at the Arduthie Business Centre on Kirkton Road in Stonehaven – but he wants to branch out into the neighbouring town.
In documents sent to the council, Mr Evans said: “I’m looking to expand my current
full time martial arts academy by opening a second full-time academy in Portlethen.
“Over time as with my Stonehaven academy this will also provide job opportunities, and a great place to help all ages benefit from a martial arts lifestyle.”
It’s a new-build unit, and Mr Evans would be the first tenant.
New home in grounds of Pitfodels mansion REFUSED
Plans for a new dream home in the grounds of a 10-acre “oasis” at Pitfodels have been quashed by the council.
Drumgarth was built in 1859 for wealthy jeweller George Jamieson, and comes with its own private pond.
The recent plans for a modern home off Inchgarth Road were lodged by Lucy and Declan Slattery – whose family own the huge Drumgarth House site.
The spot, with its own historic windmill, was sold for £1.5 million in May 2019.
In the year since, a tussle has broken out over whether it should be built…
Neighbour Ian Dunbar, who lives at Inchgarth House (itself also worth about £1 million)
He said: “I believe that the design will add significantly to the character of the area,
whilst respecting the setting of Drumgarth House and neighbouring properties.”
Another local agreed.
Erik Zwart, of Garth Lodge, confirmed he had “no hesitation” in backing it.
The company director said: “The design of the property and how it sits on the land in our eyes blends itself well with the landscape.”
And Tim Stevenson, of West Haven North, added: “I would congratulate the applicant for designing a safe entrance to this site.”
What did the council say?
The eventual decision relied on a few factors, with some major concerns about the affect on bats.
The local authority says there is a “significant likelihood” the fancy new house “would have an impact on bats due to the loss of mature trees”.
They also oppose the loss of the greenbelt land, and cite a high risk of flooding.
Do you agree that the plans should have been rejected? Let us know in our comments section below
Girlguides fight housing plans beside Aberdeen HQ
Plans to turn unwanted Aberdeen offices into a block of new flats, with a townhouse at the rear, have come under fire from an unlikely source.
The Girlguides are better known for handing out cookies than stinging rebukes…
But when it came to the development beside their Victoria Street HQ, leaders felt compelled to act.
The plans for 47 Victoria Street were revealed in Planning Ahead all the way back in July 2022.
The former home of Mackie Ramsay Taylor Architects was put up for sale after the firm moved out.
Developer Lionstone Investments filed the plans for the spot soon after, detailing how the four-flat block would come with its own “zen garden” nestled among the building.
They said this would be perfect for residents to unwind in.
Relax? Don’t do it!
The Aberdeen and Shetland branch of Girlguiding Scotland didn’t need much time to meditate over their response.
They swiftly hired legal eagles from Brodies to lodge an official objection with Aberdeen City Council.
Elaine Farquharson-Black argued that some of the ground floor would be on her clients’ land, among other problems…
The partner in the law firm said Girlguiding bosses had “considerable concerns” about the scheme.
And a lot of them focussed on the use of the car park at the rear.
What if a child runs out when a car is reversing?
She explained: “At present, the rear car parking for 45 and 47 Victoria Street are both accessed via a shared access from Thistle Lane.
“There is currently no boundary treatment separating the properties, thus allowing maximum manoeuvrability for parking at both properties.”
She continued: “Our clients are concerned that, without boundary treatment, there may be safety issues.”
The lawyer raised fears about balls “no doubt quickly followed by children” entering the Girlguides car park “while manoeuvres are being carried out”.
The children’s group has eight spaces there, used by staff, volunteers and visitors to their shop.
The Girlguiding HQ is also used by Rainbows, Brownies, various other children’s groups and even the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society Aberdeen and the Lacemakers Society – all of whom could be “detrimentally affected”.
What do the neighbours think?
Other neighbours complained too.
Bruce Gordon, who lives at the rear on Thistle Lane, argued that a proposed double garage would “have a very negative impact on his quality of life”.
He added: “It will only be eight metres from my windows and the proposed roof windows will have direct view into my property.
“Indeed they would be right in my face.”
And his neighbour, Aileen James, said the double garage would reduce the daylight entering her home.
What was the council decision on Aberdeen Girlguides housing fight?
Planning chiefs have now issued a decision on the matter.
With developers agreeing to reduce the size of the double garage, and erect a new boundary wall between the site and the Girlguides’ land, it has been rubber-stamped.
Planners praised the idea of reusing a vacant building.
And they added that, as the applicant owns the land, “there is no formal, legal right of way” for the Girlguide car park users to access it.
And you can see this week’s plans for yourself here:
Girlguides fight Aberdeen housing plans