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Girlguides fight as office next door to Aberdeen west end HQ becomes flats

Meanwhile, plans for a plush modern dream home in the grounds of a million-pound mansion at Pitfodels have been quashed by the council over the impact on bats.

The Girlguides HQ in Aberdeen's west end.
The Girlguides HQ in Aberdeen's west end. Image: Ben Hendry/Michael McCosh

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.

The Union Street Wetherspoons. Image: Chris Sumner/DC Thomson

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.

Work taking place at the pub in recent days. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.

Bosses don’t want the scaffolding to cause any confusion. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Last September, the Justice Mill’s plans for a new rooftop garden were approved by the council.

This came despite fears that guests at the Park Inn by Radisson hotel just across Justice Mill Lane would be disturbed by noise.

Work is taking place on the 423-425 Union Street building at the moment, with scaffolding erected around the front.

A leading Aberdeen hotel boss has raised concerns about the Justice Mill Wetherspoons opening a new rooftop terrace.
The Justice Mill Wetherspoons is just across from the hotel. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.

Esther Wells at Butterfly Fabrics in 2021. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

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.

The unit might soon be reborn. Image: DC Thomson

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.

This map shows where the bird-watching marquee is. Image: Google Maps.

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.

The tent measures 6m by 10m. Image: Shand Building Design

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.

The site at Kincorth. Image: Aberdeen City Council
This shows how the new houses will look. Image: Aberdeen City Council

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.

The old school site seen here in 2014, a year after the building was toppled. Image: Heather Fowlie/DC Thomson

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.

Kincorth Academy as it once was. Image: DC Thomson

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.

The newly proposed Kincorth housing. Image: Aberdeen City Council

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 old Keyhead Guesthouse. 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.

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.”

The building could make for a large home. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

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

Last week, Planning Ahead revealed how a display of Portlethen people power boosted a dance group’s bid to take on space at an industrial estate.

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.

The City South business park, as seen from the air. Image: Dandara

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.

WKC Scotland President Malcolm Evans doing some training. Image: Ross Johnstone/Newsline Media

“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.

The sensei has his eye on an unused office. Image: DC Thomson

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 luxury Pitfodels mansion. Image: Savills

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.

Last November, Planning Ahead described how the new home would be built on a 1.44 acre plot – and “constructed to the highest standards”.

The new home which was rejected by the council. Image: Brown and Brown architects

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.”

Inchgarth House is another rather extravagant property. Image: Savills

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.”

Another view of the proposed modern property. Image: Brown and Brown architects

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.

There were serious concerns about the loss of trees – and impact on their winged inhabitants. Image: Savills

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 old offices with a To Let sign outside last year. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.

45 and 47 Victoria Street. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.

How the flats and townhouse would look. Image: Fitzgerald and Associates Architects

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…

Elaine Farquharson-Black, who was recently appointed trustee of Aberdeen FC Community Trust, led the fight against the housing on behalf of the Girlguides. Image: Aberdeen FC

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.”

The rear car park, with a Nuart mural adorning the building next door. You can tell the picture was taken during Aberdeen’s recent frosty weather. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.

Could the Girlguides car park become a danger zone for excitable new neighbours? The housing plans fight centred on this area. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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”.

The monochrome mural was created by SNIK in June. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.”

The lane in Aberdeen’s west end. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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.

The Victoria Street frontage at the heart of the housing fight launched by Aberdeen Girlguides. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

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:

Justice Mill Wetherspoons staff room

Inverurie cafe

Birdwatching marquee

Craighill school latest

Kincorth Academy housing update

St Fergus guesthouse change approved

Portlethen martial arts

Drumgarth mansion refused

Rubislaw Den South plans

Girlguides fight Aberdeen housing plans