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Tycoon landowner to build new Royal Deeside mansion as Balmoral Estate gives blessing

Alastair Storey wants to turn Abergeldie Estate into a tourism hotspot, but had to win a planning battle to build his own home there first...

The major plans come as the wealthy businessman revises proposals for his own mansion there.
Abergeldie Estate mansion plans have been approved. Image: Yiangou architects

An Aberdeenshire tycoon has been given permission to build a mansion at the foot of Lochnagar – despite complaints it could “spoil The Queen’s favourite view”.

Alastair Storey, 71, was born on the Fyvie Estate and bought the Abergeldie Estate, next to Balmoral, for £23 million after making his fortune in the catering industry.

The businessman has a “vision” to transform the rugged Royal Deeside landscape into an “adventure tourism” destination.

The steading at the heart of Alastair Storey's Abergeldie Estate mansion plans.
The steading at the heart of Alastair Storey’s Abergeldie Estate mansion plans. Image: Yiangou architects

His purchase of Abergeldie Estate brought an end to the exclusive hunting rights the royals had enjoyed at the site since the mid-1800s.

But although the acquisition entitled Mr Storey to 11,50o acres of spectacular countryside, the previous owner retained her historic Abergeldie Castle home.

Abergeldie Castle
Abergeldie Castle, which has been in the same family since the 15th century, teetered on the brink of catastrophe during Storm Frank. Image: DC Thomson

And needing somewhere to live, the catering magnate has been seeking permission to knock down a crumbling steading to build his dream home at Bovaglie.

At the same time, he wants to revamp a ramshackle farmhouse yards away as a house for visiting friends and family.

Abergeldie Estate mansion plans approved after prolonged battle

The road to planning approval was as long and bumpy as the rural track to the ruined farm buildings…

Mr Storey first lodged plans for the spot last summer, but they attracted criticism and were later withdrawn.

He had another go in December, this time outlining in some detail his major plans for the land between Balmoral and Birkhall.

P&J front page covering news of potential tourism boom after Abergeldie Estate transformation.
The potential tourism boom made the front page of the P&J. Image: Roddie Reid/DC Thomson

An in-depth application explained how building the mansion was just stage one of a multi-pronged masterplan for the estate.

But it wasn’t enough to convince some naysayers, who argued it would blight the rugged spot.

Concerns Queen Camilla’s ‘wild and majestic’ view might be tainted

One opponent even claimed the development would ruin Queen Camilla’s “favourite view”.

The blueblood has described the vista of Lochnagar from Bovaglie as “truly the most wild and majestic of sights”.

King Charles and Queen Camilla at the Braemar Gathering.
King Charles and Queen Camilla at the Braemar Gathering. Image: Tim Rooke/Shutterstock.

Guest editing a special edition of Country Life, she wrote: “Sitting on a convenient granite boulder, near the run-down steadings at Bovaglie, lungs filled with that clean Highland air, there are few sights more stirring or beautiful.

“Somehow, the worries of the day-to-day world melt away, such is the power of this magnificent view.”

The steading which will be taken down, with that view across to Lochnagar.
The steading which will be taken down, with that view across to Lochnagar. Image: Savills

Why was Abergeldie mansion finally approved?

Council officials noted that Mr Storey is “investing significantly” in upgrading many of the 37 buildings across Abergeldie Estate in his bid to “reinstate the community”.

They added that the Bovaglie site had some “historic, archaeological and heritage significance” as a farmstead within the estate.

But they accepted that both remaining buildings have “fallen into a dilapidated state”.

The farmhouse at Bovaglie
The farmhouse will be restored, while the neighbouring steading is beyond help. Image: Savills

And the planning report dismisses any speculation that there could be a royal rumble over the plans affecting The Queen Consort’s most cherished spot.

Officials confirm that Balmoral Estate raised no objections when consulted about the proposal.

The local authority experts later acknowledge that the design has been “the
most controversial element of the proposal”.

Digital rendering of design of mansion proposed for Abergeldie Estate.
The design of the mansion divided opinion. Image: Yiangou architects

Royal residences cited as planners accept unconventional design

They add: “Although this may be considered an unusual architectural style within Deeside, design is subjective.

“It is not uncommon to see differing forms of architecture throughout Deeside, the Cairngorms National Park and wider Aberdeenshire.

“Estate houses take on a variety of sizes and architectural styles, designed to stand out in the landscape.”

And planning officials listed King Charles and Queen Camilla’s Birkhall home as a “differing style of architecture” within the area.

The King's Birkhall home seen here in 1975.
The King’s Birkhall home seen here in 1975. Image: DC Thomson

Balmoral Castle was mentioned too, as providing “evidence along Deeside of a variety of estate houses”.

As the mansion would be in a secluded spot, and not visible from any primary roads, planners agreed it would be acceptable.

The steading at Bovaglie.
The steading will be torn down under the newly approved mansion plans at Abergledie. Image: Savills

Do you think the council was right to approve the plans? Let us know in our comments section below

What happens next?

Building a mansion at the rugged spot will require some efforts to protect local wildlife…

Concerns were raised that the demolition and construction work could disturb golden eagles during breeding season, and Mr Storey has been told to seek the advice of nature experts before proceeding.

The vast estate was sold for the first time in 500 years. Image: Fraser and Mulligan

Care will also need to be taken that the work does not affect bats or barn owls, while trees removed for the project will be replaced elsewhere.

An access path will become private once the mansion is built, which the council says “raises concern”.

Mr Storey needs to now provide a “suitable alternative” before he is allowed to start building.

A new route east of the Bovaglie site has also been approved by the council.

You can see the freshly approved Abergeldie mansion plans here.

Read more:

Fears millionaire’s Royal Deeside mansion plan ‘could blight Queen Camilla’s favourite view’

Tourism bonanza to create local jobs as millionaire owner of huge estate next to Balmoral unveils ‘vision’ – but new mansion needed first

‘Taste is subjective’: Tycoon’s team hits back at critics as Abergeldie Estate mansion row rumbles on