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Beloved Aberdeenshire inn could reopen after “worker’s accommodation” plans scrapped

The Old Mill Inn, at Maryculter
The Old Mill Inn, at Maryculter

Plans to turn a historic north-east hotel into a “workers’ village” for Aberdeen bypass contractors have been scrapped.

And the owner of the Old Mill Inn has revealed he now hopes to reopen it to the public within months.

Digs2Go – the developer behind the proposals for the property at Kirkton of Maryculter – has withdrawn proposals to convert the site into accommodation for Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) workers.

The firm’s managing director, Michael Saunders, said he was unwilling to proceed with the “specialist hotel” scheme without the backing of locals – who objected to the project.

Discussions with Aberdeen Roads Limited (ARL) – the consortium building the bypass – had also stalled and Transport Scotland has now said contractors will be housed at a site for 400 people at Craibstone.

The planned 275-space car park in a field opposite the Old Mill Inn has been scrapped along, with proposals for 132, two-person portable accommodation units on a site neighbouring the building.

Mr Saunders had planned to reopen the inn to the public after the construction of the 28-mile bypass.

Maryculter residents raised concerns about the scale of the planned development and the influx of traffic it could bring to the rural area.

An Aberdeenshire Council spokeswoman confirmed the local authority was “no longer considering the application”.

Proposals for a number of temporary accommodation units will be included in a new scheme for the Old Mill Inn’s revival, but Mr Saunders said they would be on a smaller scale and aimed at “white collar workers”.

Mr Saunders: “We are going to put in a new application taking on board everything that the neighbours were worried about.

“We won’t be proceeding with the car park and hopefully we’ll be reopening the Old Mill Inn as a bar and restaurant for public use. So it won’t be a workers’ accommodation, it will be more general.

“I think it was pretty obvious that we were upsetting the neighbours and we don’t want to do that. We have got to do something with their support.

“The ultimate plan will be to run the restaurant and the bar. We’d like to be open again in October.

“We’ll be taking on as many local staff as we can. Everything will be managed from our Scotland office but Aberdeen-based people will all run it. We are doing it with an experienced hotel partner.”

Mr Saunders added: “A planning application will be put in over the next few weeks and then we’ll do some more community consultation.”

Plans for alterations and extensions to the Old Mill Inn to create more bedroom space were given approval by council planning officers in February 2014.

Mr Saunders said the extension could be built a couple of years down the line.

Local resident Austin Hand said: “The fact that it would be returned as a local facility is good and I can understand the need for extra rooms to increase the accommodation for business reasons.

“The car park in the other plans just would have been terrible for the whole area, the road is busy enough at the best of times and that would have increased problems.”

However the retired Shell project manager said that he and his friends – who once used the Old Mill Inn as their local – had been welcomed at Culter’s The Ploughman since the closure.

He said: “We have become fond of our friends and colleagues at the Ploughman. We would not 100% go back to the Old Mill Inn. They did not take people like us into account when they closed.”

Another Maryculter resident said: “It was really nice, I used to go in about once every six months and we used to go on Christmas Eve. When it’s not there you miss it.

“It would be nice if it opened up, if it was I would go a lot more.”

Maryculter councillor Alastair Bews said: “Certainly the Old Mill Inn has been a fixture in the local area for well over 100 years. It always seemed to be very well used in the past.

“I would imagine it would be welcomed if it was to remain. I know the plans for the workers’ accommodation did cause some discussions in the local area, which was to be expected.”

The Old Mill Inn was owned and run by Victor Sang and his family for almost 25 years, before they sold the business to Digs2Go.

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