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Neighbours say Britannia Hotel outdoor dining plans would ‘worsen rat problems’

The Bucksburn building is seeking to convert part of a fire-hit wing into the al fresco area.

There are concerns about a new outdoor area at the Britannia Hotel.
There are concerns about a new outdoor area at the Britannia Hotel. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

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

This week’s instalment has a look at the problems that can spring from having a hotel on your doorstep…

Residents in the Bucksburn area of Aberdeen claim new plans for an outside dining area at the Britannia Hotel will worsen an issue with rats.

Elsewhere we have plans to turn a coastal medical centre into a house… And could golden eagles scupper a millionaire’s mansion plan in Royal Deeside?

Facelift planned for popular Aberdeen Beach cafe

But first we have plans to do up a popular seafront cafe in Aberdeen.

Pavilion Cafe owner Paul Dawson with the building in the background. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Paul Dawson, who owns the Pavilion, wants to do away with the large window at the front to replace it with bi-fold doors.

He would also install an awning over the front.

This would give the cafe an airier feel on days when the North Sea breeze isn’t too chilly.

How the frontage looks just now. Image: Anthony Robertson Design Limited
Here is how it could be transformed. Image: Anthony Robertson Design Limited

It comes as major plans to revamp the seafront moved forward in recent days.

The council hopes a string of high-profile changes, including a boardwalk jutting out into the sea, will turn it into more of an attraction.

Seafront businesses are tipped to benefit from the changes. Image: Aberdeen City Council

Medical practice could become home in picturesque corner of north-east

Now we move elsewhere along the coast, with plans to turn a former medical practice into something of a dream home with views across the Moray Firth.

Mr and Mrs R Whittle, from Wirral in Merseyside, want to turn the former Fordyce Institute surgery on Gamrie Brae into a house.

Gardenstown could be quite a perfect getaway for anyone looking for a peaceful spot to live. Image: Aberdeenshire Council

Three consulting rooms across the ground and first floors would become bedrooms, while the waiting room would become a living room and the reception area turned into a snug.

The staff room would be transformed into a kitchen, and a new garage/workshop built in the garden.

The Gardenstown GP surgery. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

The practice closed in 2016 and has been vacant ever since.

It fell victim to GP shortages, with patients moved to Macduff when health bosses couldn’t attract a new doctor to the coastal community.

The P&J covered the news of the closure of the practice. Image: Mhorvan Park/DC Thomson

At the time, “abandoned” locals complained of “going from a 20-yard journey to a 10-mile journey”.

Plans to turn it into a daycare centre were approved in 2020 but never came to fruition.

Gemma McKay was behind the Gardenstown Play School plans in 2020. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Drill hall demolition in Inverbervie

Meanwhile, a former Mearns drill hall could be demolished to make way for a new property.

The Inverbervie site was put up for auction last April, with a brief bidding war taking the price to a final £33,000 sum.

The cadets building seen here when it was up for auction. Image: Google Maps

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation hailed its “development potential” as it tried to offload the vacant Townhead site.

Now AJF Homes wants to flatten the building.

Blueprints show how the site could make way for a large four-bedroom home.

The drill hall has seen better days. Image: Google Maps

Daycare centre needs extension to cater for more kids

Over in Ellon, a daycare centre is seeking permission for an extension required to meet strict Care Inspectorate rules. 

The Auchterellon Under Fives charity says that having larger space available will mean they can “offer a full range of services”.

The building on Brent Field Circle in Ellon. Image: Google Maps

At the moment, the group is not registered to look after youngsters aged between three and five, but this extension would make that possible.

Planning papers state: “While there is not an official waiting list there are many enquiries about when we will be able to start offering places again.”

Abergeldie mansion plans attract eagle eye of nature experts

Over the past few months, Planning Ahead has tracked the progress of millionaire tycoon Alastair Storey’s efforts to build a new mansion on the Abergeldie Estate – next door to the royals’ Balmoral expanse.

In December, we revealed his wider aims to revive the area which he bought for £23 million.

How the new Abergeldie Estate mansion would look. Image: Yiangou architects

But since then, the plans have come in for criticism.

Last month, our round-up featured concerns from a range of locals who fear the mansion would look out of place.

It was even claimed that the new family home would blight Queen Camilla’s “favourite view”.

How the mansion, and a nearby farmhouse also earmarked for development, would look. Image: Yiangou architects

Could plans disturb golden eagles trying to breed?

And now, nature experts have swooped in to raise another potential problem…

The Scottish Government’s NatureScot quango has weighed in on the plans, which include demolishing the existing Bovaglie steading to make way for the grand home.

The steading which would be flattened. Image: Yiangou architects

This spot is surrounded by what’s known as a “special protection area” in the Cairngorms.

In a letter to Aberdeenshire Council, experts explain that this area is “designated for its breeding population of golden eagle”.

Would demolition work ruin the romantic mood for amorous eagles? Image: Shutterstock

They add: “Several breeding sites of golden eagle are found within or adjacent to Abergeldie Estate and Bovaglie is located to the south of Sgor an h-Iolaire, or the crag of the eagle.”

As the exact location is not part of the special area, any plans “would not lead to any loss of habitat”.

However, they say the demolition of the steading and ensuing construction work could cause “minor disturbance to golden eagle during the breeding season” between February and August.

NatureScot recommends Mr Storey get in touch “for further advice, so that the possibility of any disturbance can be avoided”.

Grotty university stairway to be replaced

Robert Gordon University is planning improvements to the Gray’s School of Art complex at its Garthdee campus, by upgrading a rusty set of steps.

The “corroded” staircase is no work of art. Image: RGU

Planning papers say the corroded staircase at the university has been sealed off “due to concerns over stability”.

A new set, for students to access workshops, would be “compliant with the current standards”.

Banks o’ Dee road row goes into second leg as bridge plans lodged

Late last year, the P&J revealed how Highland League side Banks o’ Dee “feared for its future” amid plans to turn a former care home next to Spain Park into flats.

The former care home can be seen here behind the stand. Image: Mhorvan Park/DC Thomson

It came as councillors gave developer Mosaic Microliving permission to convert it into 24 apartments for people with complex care needs.

The neighbouring fitness centre and Banks o’ Dee FC warned the narrow road leading to their venues and the complex won’t cope with extra traffic.

And they claimed the housing would  “jeopardise [the club’s] existence”.

The road in question. Image: Alastair Gossip/DC Thomson

A separate wrangle emerged during the talks, revolving around the condition that developers need to build a new footbridge to the site.

Planners say the link would be needed to protect pedestrians and wheelchairs users who would otherwise have to use the road to get there.

The road into the Banks o' Dee care home was used for football buses to turn at Spain Park. Image: Alastair Gossip/DC Thomson
The road into the Banks o’ Dee care home was used for football buses to turn at Spain Park. Image: Alastair Gossip/DC Thomson

How would bridge lead to flats?

And now, in their bid to see the plans come to pass, the developers have got back to the local authority with plans for this crossing.

They say the walkway, providing access from Abbotswell Road, would “provide means of access for disabled persons”.

Blueprints show how this would include a new path from Asphalt Road and a bridge over the burn there.

This shows how the bridge could reach the flats. Image: Mosaic Microliving

Bridge at ‘bottleneck’ is ‘neither safe nor practical’

But football bosses have also objected to this application.

Banks o’ Dee FC’s Brian Winton has written another letter to the council, again flagging concerns about the “major bottleneck” leading to the 60-bed complex.

Banks o' Dee president Brian Winton says the club will take legal advice on how to stop the flats being built. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson
Banks o’ Dee president Brian Winton said the club will take legal advice on how to stop the flats being built. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

He adds: “It is the main passing place for cars gaining access and egress to the ground.

“Banks o’ Dee FC’s understanding is that the proposed bridge allows pedestrians and wheelchair users to access the site on an already congested area.

“The proposed pedestrian bridge is neither safe or practical. The objection is based on safety of the users of our Banks o’ Dee FC facility and users of the pedestrian bridge.”

The former Banks o' Dee care home.
The former Banks o’ Dee care home. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

And fitness centre boss Iain Watson is in agreement.

His letter of objection asks: “Are you proposing that all pedestrians accessing the site would use the footbridge?

“My concern would also be that residents park in the Sports Club car park and vice versa. Sadly there is not much respect in where you leave your car any more.”

The council’s roads team has asked for more information on the bridge before deciding on whether to back it.

Britannia Hotel plans could worsen rats problem, claim Aberdeen neighbours

Bucksburn neighbours are fighting plans for an outdoor drinking area at Aberdeen’s Britannia Hotel, saying it would attract rats.

The area in question, at the junction of Malcolm Road and Old Meldrum Road, has been left in ruin since a fire tore through it in 2016.

We devoted plenty of coverage to the major blaze just off the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road. Image: Mhorvan Park/DC Thomson

Almost 100 firefighters battled the flames in dramatic scenes, but the pub, reception, kitchen and 25 bedrooms were wrecked.

And the hotel remained closed for two years after the blaze.

What is happening now?

Hotel bosses have now proposed a “general refurbishment” of an area badly damaged in the fire, which was previously a health club.

This includes creating an “external terrace” for guests to enjoy some outdoor hospitality.

Meanwhile, the site of the old swimming pool would make way for a new lounge.

The current ground floor layout, showing the old leisure space. Image: Prestwich Design Group
Here are the changes bosses are seeking permission for. Image: Prestwich Design Group

Aberdeen neighbour says rats will be drawn to area at Britannia Hotel

However, since the plans were lodged, those living nearby have urged the council to reject them.

Joe Hippey, who lives on Malcolm Road, says the hospitality venue already makes his life a misery as it is.

The hotel in the immediate aftermath of the blaze in the summer of 2016. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

In a letter to the council, he laments the fact that a noisy fridge was kept in the car park last summer.

Mr Hippey says this “caused an electrical hum that could be heard from within our rooms even with the windows shut”.

‘We have had to call police countless times’

The resident also blasts the potential for increased anti-social behaviour if the external area is given the go-ahead.

Mr Hippey adds: “We have had to call 101 countless times in the last few years.

“A few of the incidents are unconscious people in the road, physical fights being witnessed, screams and shouting.”

He also worries that an dining spot would exacerbate “an issue with rats in the area”.

A rat outside the Woolmanhill Hospital building in Aberdeen in 2021. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

‘There is a history of rat infestation’

This is a concern echoed by others in the community…

Bill Tait added: “There is a history of rat infestation and this will exacerbate the problem.”

The Britannia Hotel in Bucksburn. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

And Malcolm Road’s Hannah Scott went into detail on the alleged problem.

She claimed: “Since building works have commenced upon the Britannia in 2016 a vast number of rodents, namely rats, have been seen scurrying in and around the building.

“The issue is largely attributed to poor waste management around the area of bin storage and the close proximity to the Bucks Burn that runs beneath the hotel.”

The hotel is known for its budget-friendly rates. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

The neighbour continues: “There has been a notable increase over the last eight years since disruptive building and renovation works commenced, with rats often seen running between bin areas.”

She even said that residents have “taken private remedial pest control actions to deal with infestation within our outbuildings”.

And the objection claims rodents have been seen “attempting to burrow into the house through vents”.

The unhappy neighbour worries that a fenced area making up part of the development could provide a place for rats to breed.

Do you think the plans should be approved? Let us know in our comments section below

‘No one wants to hear loud music and drunken voices’

Wendy Cumming, who lives on Old Meldrum Road, also lamented “a significant and often unacceptable level of noise” at her property.

The resident adds: “The area is predominantly residential with many children living nearby and no one wants to hear loud music and loud drunken voices.”

She hopes planning chiefs will impose strict noise rules at the site.

Youtubers who reviewed the Aberdeen hotel said they “paid too much” for the “dated” accommodation – but praised staff and had few complaints:

Council environmental health experts do not raise any objections, however.

They only order that any outdoor area is shut at 10pm every night to avoid noise disturbing neighbours.

The Britannia Hotel later clarified that the outdoor area would not be for food, with “no plans for eating” there.

A spokesman added: “This new area is to give the chance to for people to enjoy a drink and enjoy the Scottish weather.”

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

Pavilion cafe

Gardenstown surgery could become home

Plans for Inverbervie drill hall

Auchterellon extension

Golden eagle concerns

Gray’s School of Art staircase

Banks o’ Dee care home latest

Britannia Hotel Aberdeen rats dispute