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Owner pleads for machine sales shed at Tillycairn Castle to help pay for Sauchen landmark

James Taylor fears he and his family might need to move out of the tower house between Alford and Westhill, unless he is allowed to run his business from a big shed at the site.

Planning permission is needed to build a large storage shed for equipment at 16th century Tillycairn Castle.
Planning permission is needed to build a large storage shed for equipment at 16th century Tillycairn Castle. Image: Clarke Cooper/DC Thomson

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

In the past week the region has gone from snow to storms, with Isha and then Jocelyn battering the region in quick succession.

And it’s amid this increasingly adverse weather that we look at the measures being taken to protect a pair of Aberdeen homes repeatedly hit by flooding.

On a related note, plans have also been lodged to prevent people from taking a tumble on some Stonehaven steps that pose a slippery risk in the rain.

And later on we will explore the challenges of living in the 16th century Tillycairn Castle, near Alford, in the year 2024.

Albyn Terrace office could become fitness studio

But first there are some plans for anyone that might need some encouragement sticking to exercise-based new year resolutions…

Reform Physio and Pilates wants to open a new studio on the lower ground floor of an ornate Aberdeen office building.

1-3 Albyn Terrace
1-3 Albyn Terrace is one of the city’s more impressive workplaces. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

The unit at 1-3 Albyn Terrace has been advertised to lease for £17,500 per year.

Papers sent to the council seek permission to change the use, so they can operate health-boosting classes from it.

The applicants would use the space for physio appointments and pilates classes.

1-3 Albyn Terrace in Aberdeen
Albyn Terrace is just off the city’s Queens Terrace Gardens. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Architects say: “There would be minimal noise disruption to other businesses, with only quiet music and machines, and only instructors speaking.”

Reform Physio, run by Laura Patterson, is based in Cults Business Park.

Laura Patterson doing pilates
Laura Patterson is a certified pilates expert. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

In an interview with The Press and Journal in December, Laura told us how she used pilates to “educate women on their bodies”.

The mum-of-two has been a physiotherapist since 2004, and hinted then at plans to expand the business…

Laura Patterson outside the Reform pilates Cults clinic in Aberdeen
The Cults clinic opened in August 2021. Image: Kath Flannery / DC Thomson

These Albyn Terrace plans come after a yoga instructor launched a similar proposal on the other side of the city.

Lauren Adams wants to turn an old Bridge of Don office into a “haven of calm” as her own studio. 

New Albyn Place houses approved despite blaze damage

Nearby, at 31-32 Albyn Place, plans for new homes have been approved – months after the site was hit by a fire.

The former offices as they looked before the fire
The former offices as they looked before the fire. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson
Fire service height vehicle at Albyn Place.
Fire crews bringing the blaze at Albyn Place under control. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Proposals for the former PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) office just off the busy road had been approved in the summer of 2022.

Last April, developers sent in plans to expand on that with a mews development to the rear of the building.

A drawing of how the homes could look
How the new homes would look at the bottom of the garden. Image: Create Studio Architecture

And just when it appeared that things were progressing, disaster hit the site.

In September, the boarded up office building left empty since 2016 was destroyed by a fire.

Nevertheless, the plans for the four-home mews development in what was the car park have now been rubber-stamped amid uncertainty over the project.

Council decision-makers praised the “quality design” as they sealed the scheme.

Could used car dealership be coming to Macduff?

Ivor Cumming, who previously ran the Crown Motors used car dealership in Turriff alongside his brother Albert, has put in plans for a new showroom in Macduff.

Albert and Ivor Cumming outside Crown Motors
Albert and Ivor Cumming, owners of Crown Motors. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

He has earmarked a site within the industrial estate just off Tarlair Way.

The plans for the patch of wasteland indicate there would be a large display area and a building comprising two offices, a waiting area and staff room.

The patch of wasteland in Macduff
The site in question. Image: Google Maps

Special gates to prevent Aberdeen properties from flooding

Scottish Water is taking action to save a pair of Aberdeen homes from the threat of rising waters.

Residents at 67 and 69 Hardgate, just down from Justice Mill Lane, have been hit by flooding several times in recent years.

A section of Hardgate in Aberdeen city centre in the evening
Hardgate. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Papers submitted to Aberdeen City Council explain the need for the modern gates.

Scottish Water says: “Hardgate has been subject to internal flooding as a result of flooding in the local area.

“During heavy rainfall events, water surcharges within the highway to the rear of the property.

“This flow breaches the access gate, entering the garden resulting in flooding of the low-lying property.”

Outside 67 and 69 Hardgate
67 and 69 Hardgate are at the bottom of a hill. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

The organisation says this has happened on “several occasions” since 2020, and the flood gates will prevent any future risk.

Scottish Water continues: “If the building is penetrated by floodwater, it can easily damage structural elements including the walls, floors and finishing.

“Older buildings are more vulnerable as water can find ways through cracks and gaps around doors.”

Outside 67 and 69 Hardgate
The homes can end up sodden in stormy weather. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

The “Stormmeister” gates are said to have an enhanced design offering better protection.

They have also been deployed at historic buildings on Union Street.

Watch the barrier being tested at a Lancashire lab:

The local authority has now agreed that the 1.7m gates will not impact on the conservation area, and rubber-stamped the proposals.

Measures to prevent slip risks on Stonehaven steps

Over in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire Council is increasingly concerned for the safety of pedestrians using the stairs at the town’s White Bridge.

The C-listed Carron crossing, just off Cameron Street, has been elevated in recent years – with new steps at each end.

It comes after the bridge was removed and refurbished as part of the town’s £16 million flood defence scheme.

The bridge being lifted in 2019
The bridge being lifted in 2019. Image: Jim Irvine/DC Thomson
The bridge being lifted by a crane
Workers raised the structure aloft… Image: Jim Irvine/DC Thomson
The bridge being moved onto the lorry
It was placed on the back of a waiting lorry while work took place on the waterway. Image: Jim Irvine/DC Thomson

Now, the local authority wants to plaster white “anti-slip tape” across the steps to “improve user safety” as they “can be slippy when wet”.

Documents add: “They will also provide a colour contrast to help improve visibility of the steps for bridge users.”

The steps up to the bridge
Some of the steps which can become slippery. Image: Aberdeenshire Council

Plea to keep business base at historic Tillycairn Castle

James Taylor and wife Caroline bought the five-storey Tillycairn Castle more than a decade ago.

An article with the headline "Kings off the castle"
We covered the purchase of the castle 13 years ago. Image: Clarke Cooper/DC Thomson

The Donside landmark is thought to have been built in 1550, and was put up for sale in 2008 for the princely sum of £820,000.

It was built by Matthew Lumsden, who received the land from his father-in-law, the sixth Lord Forbes, who murdered fellow aristocrat Alexander Seton of Meldrum in a family feud in 1526.

A view outside Tillycairn Castle, through some trees
Tillycairn Castle is at Millbank, between Westhill and Alford. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

And as well as that interesting past, it came with seven bedrooms, three bathrooms, a grand hall, a laird’s room and its own flagpole.

Mr and Mrs Taylor had been house-hunting in the north-east when they fell in love with the ancient structure near Sauchen.

Upon moving in, they soon discovered “lots of nooks and crannies, lots of cubby-holes and bits and pieces from yesteryear”.

Clan crests above the fireplace inside the castle
Clan crests above the fireplace. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
A dining area inside the castle
Another image from inside the castle at the time of the purchase. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

What has happened since then?

But living in Tillycairn Castle comes at a price…

Mr Taylor, who has a fascination with the region’s historic buildings, says he has spent “most of what he earned” maintaining his home as something of a labour of love.

Mr and Mrs Taylor on a spiral staircase in the castle
Mr and Mrs Taylor in the castle in 2011. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

And planning documents submitted to Aberdeenshire Council now explain the changes that have taken place since they bought the stunning site.

Mr Taylor set up an engineering consultancy in 2010, around the same time as he purchased the property.

He ran Indepth Energy, which specialised in renewables and the offshore industry, all by himself – working from clients’ offices.

The castle from a distance, surrounded by trees and fields
The castle is nestled in the countryside. Image: Strutt and Parker

While working alongside a range of customers, he started his own “hobby business” selling and hiring out machinery and plant equipment.

This made sense, as Mr Taylor needed to buy “larger plant” as he did up Tillycairn Castle.

Downturn changed life for castle owners

When times became tough with the downturn, and the couple were made redundant, he expanded this business in 2015.

He loaned out diggers, cherry pickers and other machinery “as a means to generate income”.

The view from the top of Tillycairn Castle during winter, with trees, snowy fields and hills in the distance
The view from the top of Tillycairn Castle. Image: Kenny Elrick/ DC Thomson

Since then, what started as a sideline has continued to grow.

Documents add: “This growth has continued slowly but steadily.

“It has been a very necessary step as the downturn in oil and gas took a stronghold with the availability of work declining and rates become very poor.”

Why is machinery business needed?

And Mr Taylor explains how badly cash is needed when it comes to looking after the costly castle.

He added: “Tillycairn Castle is a relatively large and costly building to upkeep and as such requires significant investment to both own and maintain.

“I needed to do something in terms of income to facilitate the ownership and upkeep of the castle.

“The plant equipment hire and sales business fitted well as it had grown from being a hobby to something larger.”

A blueprint showing how a new 28.8m by 9m structure would appear in relation to the castle
A blueprint showing how a new 28.8m by 9m structure would appear in relation to the castle. Image: James Taylor

Papers also stress that the location of the business, at the Tillycairn Castle grounds in the heart of Aberdeenshire, mean it’s easy to transport items all over the region.

And Mr Taylor is now pleading for permission to keep the business at the historic site.

Enforcement officer arrived to halt work on shed last year

He warns: “Moving from the current location might not allow us to continue, and
certainly would not allow us to serve the more remote areas that we currently do.”

The i-Tool & Plant business has required more and more space over the past six years, and a large steel-framed building was last year erected in a nearby field to house the equipment.

But in May, Aberdeenshire Council sent a planning enforcement officer to inspect the site.

Here is how the hangar has been left since progress was stopped
Here is how the hangar has been left since progress was stopped… Image: James Taylor

They ordered a stop to any further work on the hangar, which still needs to be clad.

Mr Taylor tells the authority he “regrets” a misunderstanding of the rules involved.

And he is now having to fight for consent to keep it on the grounds of the historic castle.

Inside a living area of the abode, with red and gold patterned sofas, a wooden coffee table, a wooden bench and a stone fireplace with clan crests above it
Another glimpse inside the unique abode. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Storage hut ‘is necessary’

Ultimately, he would like to base the storage unit off-site but he says, at the moment, this would not be viable “due to additional transport costs and also rent/mortgage for another building”.

He continues: “This business has grown as a necessity and the result of the downturn in the oil and gas market.

“There are huge pressures on the local economy as a result of people like myself and my wife being displaced from the oil and gas sector in Aberdeenshire.”

A view of the castle exterior
Would you like to live in a house like this? Image: Strutt and Parker

‘I have fears for family’s future at Tillycairn Castle’

Were Mr Taylor to move from the 16th century tower house, he is cautioning that it could fall back into the same state of ruin it lay in from the 1700s until a revamp in the 1980s.

Tillycairn Castle as a ruin in the 60s
Tillycairn Castle seen here as a ruin in 1965. Image: DC Thomson
A black and white photo of Tillycairn Castle after the restoration
By 1982, it had been restored. Image: DC Thomson

Do you think planners should grant permission for the structure? Let us know in our comments section below

The businessman adds: “As an enthusiast of historic buildings, I have spent most of what I have earned repairing the building and upgrading items.

“Should I be unable to continue with this business in its current form and from this building, I have fears for the viability of our family at Tillycairn Castle.”

Mr Taylor
Mr Taylor getting a taste of the high life after moving to Tillycairn Castle. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

He concludes: “This is an enabler to allow us to continue there and also to continue the sympathetic repairs, upkeep and preservation of the castle.

“This building was largely neglected for 30 years prior to us purchasing it.”

And you can see this week’s plans for yourself here:

Pilates plan

Albyn homes approved

Macduff car dealership

Hardgate flood defences: here and here

Stonehaven slippery steps 

Tillycairn Castle plans