A businessman’s plans to spend £20 million on an Aberdeen beach holiday park have hit the rocks – but he refuses to give up on his dream.
Entrepreneur Hamish McDonald had optimistically earmarked a plot of land at the city’s Esplanade for the major development.
New images show his vision for about 150 lodges close to the seafront, a plan he said could inject millions into the local economy every year.
The Press and Journal exclusively revealed the proposal, which would be the first of its kind in Aberdeen, on Monday night.
What happened during crunch talks on holiday park plan?
On Tuesday, Mr McDonald faced the council’s finance committee as he pleaded for the local authority to consider selling the public land required.
He revealed that he first approached officials about the “ideal” location in the summer of 2021, at a time when the staycation market was booming.
Mr McDonald said: “What I am proposing is something that the Aberdeen coastline doesn’t have…
“When you look at Aberdeenshire, there are numerous high quality coastline holiday parks.”
Is Aberdeen missing out without holiday lodges for guests?
The 56-year-old continued: “Since Covid, there has been a move to UK holidays and Aberdeen does not cater to this with holiday lodge accommodation.
“This location has great access to the surrounding facilities, such as golf courses and the beach just to name a few.
“Our plans could bring £4.25m of off-site tourism spend.”
The developer went on to reel off an exhaustive list of seaside spots blessed with their own caravan parks – including Montrose, Stonehaven, Lossiemouth and Peterhead.
Why is born and bred Aberdonian the right man to make Aberdeen beach holiday park plans a success?
Mr McDonald also described his professional background, involving “various other lodge parks”.
Facing councillors, he listed his role in the luxury Stewarts Resort at St Andrews, which capitalises on the area’s golfing tourism.
“St Andrews regularly supports golf events with quality accommodation for sponsors and visitors, the same could be true for Aberdeen,” he offered.
And Mr McDonald recently sold a “high-end” 262-lodge site in Luncarty, Perthshire.
He added: “This is not a pipe dream.
“I have the experience to make this happen.”
Years of discussions before plans go before councillors
As talks progressed since 2021, Mr McDonald sought reassurance that the lodge park could go ahead at the suggested location.
Having been given no indication the site might be a non-starter, he commissioned economic studies outlining the benefits.
He was later told that the finance committee would need to pave the way for it to progress any further.
Under planning guidelines, the land is currently reserved primarily for community facilities such as a mosque.
But the developer had been hopeful that “positive solutions” could be found to any issues.
What did councillors decide?
Ultimately, the committee voted against entering into talks over the land.
They agreed it was “not considered suitable for this use”.
However, top brass have been asked to “consider” whether there could be scope for the Aberdeen beach holiday park elsewhere along the coastline.
It comes as the local authority drives forward its own masterplan for the seafront, and it was suggested the holiday park could form part of that.
‘I’m disappointed but I’m not giving up’
Speaking after the meeting, Mr McDonald admitted he was “deeply disappointed” at talks over the land being ruled out.
He added: “I have spent considerable time and effort on the project, which I truly believe would have brought great benefits to Aberdeen.
“Aberdeen is lagging behind. There are dozens of other coastal locations, and this was a chance for Aberdeen to put itself back on the map as a tourist destination…”
He continued: “I understand Aberdeen City Council are open to looking into an alternative location.
“I hope this is the case and the project is given their prompt attention, and look forward to engaging in further discussions.”
‘I’m passionate about my home city’
And the proud Aberdonian insists he is determined to bring his Aberdeen beach holiday park plans to life.
He said: “I want to provide something here for the benefit of Aberdeen – something we don’t have – and I believe the coastal location will certainly be a fantastic opportunity.
“I’m still keen to proceed with this. By no means, I’m putting this to bed.
“We have a beautiful beach lying there unexposed, and I have a vision for it.
“I’m passionate about my home city, and I believe that there are opportunities here.”