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Drum Castle bosses turn to Elon Musk’s space venture to boost internet signal

Meanwhile a Donside war memorial could be moved brick by brick from outside a church, as the building hits the market.

Drum Castle internet problems could be solved by looking to infinity - and beyond...
Drum Castle internet problems could be solved by looking to infinity - and beyond... Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Drum Castle internet problems could be solved by a billionaire’s space scheme, there are plans to turn a Boddam church into flats and proposals for another new Aberdeen coffee shop are brewing away…

All these and more feature in this week’s Planning Ahead, our weekly round-up of the latest proposals being pondered across the north-east.

Every week we bring readers a selection of the most interesting applications submitted to our councils in a bid to form changes big and small in our communities.

We begin our latest instalment with a local business duo’s latest plan for Aberdeen city centre…

Aberdam duo planning new Union Square kiosk

The Aberdeen businessmen behind the Aberdam chips sensation and a new cinnamon roll hotspot have formed plans for a new kiosk in Union Square.

Michael Robertson and David Griffiths launched Aberdam. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

The building documents have been filed by Ceebelt Ltd, which is run by Michael Robertson and David Griffiths.

Papers sent to Aberdeen City Council outline proposals to spend £10,000 on the new structure along the concourse.

Union Square has become a hotspot for youths causing trouble.
Union Square continues to thrive in a tough retail environment. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

There is no indication on what it could sell, at this point.

But it comes weeks after the Dough and Co doughnut shop had a successful weekend operating from a kiosk between Zara and Next on the ground floor of Union Square.

The doughnut kiosk proved a hit. Image: Stuart McPhee

Fans of sweet treats might be hoping that the Shot and Roll pair, who also operated Resident X for a spell, are bringing their moreish cinnamon rolls to the centre.

Caffe Nero proposal sealed at Aberdeen Railway Station

Nearby, the council has signed off on plans for a new Caffe Nero coffee shop to the front of the city’s train station.

The scheme was unveiled in late January, with the chain eyeing up a new unit created as part of a major revamp of the building.

The Caffe Nero could open at the front of Aberdeen railway station.
The Caffe Nero could open at the front of Aberdeen railway station. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Officials have now endorsed the new use for the space, and given their blessing to the signs proposed for the frontage.

The plans come just days after the city’s independent Red Robin Records coffee shop and music store closed for the final time.

Owner Nick Duthie outside Red Robin Records. The city’s cafe scene has witnessed some ups and downs lately. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

We visited to speak with loyal customers as they paid their emotional last visits.

Meanwhile, another local coffee outlet has confirmed plans to open up on Union Street. 

Crown Terrace guesthouse transformation

And a short distance away, plans to turn an old office block on Crown Terrace into a guesthouse are ramping up.

The Crown Terrace building on a gloomy May afternoon (yes, May). Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

The complex will be turned into a 12-room offering, just along from the city’s railway and bus stations.

It had been advertised to let for more than five years, and was recently offered for sale for £200,000.

The building is near the city centre. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

And now, building papers reveal the cost of the overhaul.

Aberdeen Rooms Ltd, which is based in Woking, is spending £150,000 on the conversion.

Work could be seen taking place in the building in recent days.

Inverurie nursery to bring oil building back to life

Last week, Planning Ahead detailed a successful application from The Croft nursery in Chapelton, which was granted permission to expand despite some concerns from neighbours.

Over in Inverurie, a local has been given the go-ahead to turn an old oil office into a nursery.

Applicants Elle’s Early Learning and Childcare just had to convince the council that the unloved building had very little chance of a future otherwise…

The overgrown former workplace. Image: Google Maps

They explained that Arnlea Systems Ltd left in 2015, meaning it’s been sitting empty for about nine years.

‘It lies neglected and overgrown’

Documents sent to the authority state: “With no tenant, it was marketed for sale in
April 2021.

“However, a further two years passed before the current owner bought the property. This timeline alone confirms there is no market for the building in its current guise.”

They added: “The site currently lies neglected and overgrown while the building has fallen into a state of disrepair.”

The building is poised for a new lease of life. Image: Google Maps

Having secured the extra information, Aberdeenshire Council has now rubber-stamped the conversion plan.

They agreed that there’s “no reasonable prospect” of it being revived as an office, with the change “reasonable and justifiable”.

It will create 10 jobs and building documents submitted to Aberdeenshire Council indicate that the renovation will cost £50,000.

Donside war memorial could be on the move…

This one might sound strange, as war memorial monuments don’t often tend to be mobile – but one Donside statue could be relocating.

Cluny Church and Hall, at Sauchen, is on the market with offers of more than £99,999 invited.

The sale will close on Wednesday, May 8.

The church, with the war memorial at the front. Image: Chris Sumner/DC Thomson

A brochure boasts that the B-listed building is “set within stunning countryside”, and could be repurposed as anything from a museum to a cinema.

But the war memorial will not form part of the package.

Instead Cluny, Midmar and Monymusk Community Council has forged plans to carefully move the large stone symbol.

Euan Glen was ordained and inducted as minister of the linked charge of Cluny and Monymusk in 1992. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Shifting it to a spot nearby between two graveyards will remove it from Church of Scotland land to a patch owned by Aberdeenshire Council.

This will ensure it can remain a focal point of the village’s Remembrance ceremonies, without those paying their respects having to enter private land (potentially feet from somebody’s living room window).

Boddam church could become homes

Over in Boddam, another place of worship is caught in the crossfires of major social changes that have seen various religious buildings mothballed…

Much like the Sauchen building, the former United Free Church just outside Peterhead was put up for sale.

Unlike its Donside counterpart, it’s already secured a buyer – having been snapped up at auction in January.

The church, which dates back to the 1870s, could make for a unique home. Image: DC Thomson

And now, applicant Harry Miller of Aberdeen wants to split it into two homes.

He would change the exterior as little as possible, so that it “retains its original church appearance”.

But Mr Miller is seeking permission for new rooflights in his bid to convert the building.

The building was sold months ago. Image: Google Maps

The developer also wants to insulate the walls and roofs.

But the double height space of the hall will be retained, while a wall is added to divide it into two flats.

Eco changes to Stonehaven church

We conclude a holy trinity of church-related applications with a look at some modern additions to a historic Mearns building.

Dick Jenkins, the property convener for Stonehaven’s Fetteresso Church, is seeking permission for extra solar panels on the roof of the hall.

The six devices would be in addition to 50 already spread across the top of the building.

Fetteresso Parish Church on Bath Street. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Meanwhile, the team also want to install six air source heat pumps to the west wall of the church, above the hall roof.

These will be instead of gas boilers.

The panels on top of the Stonehaven building. Image: Fetteresso Church

Marischal College quad floodlighting

Last week, the P&J revealed new lighting plans to illuminate a stretch of Union Street outside the new market building.

And now, the council is moving forward with separate plans to install floodlighting at its Marischal College offices.

The added lights would help keep the quad safe. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Building papers say the “access lighting” will be fitted at “high level” within the towers so as not to penetrate the granite structures.

The work is estimated to cost £20,000.

There was lighting of a more snazzy kind during the Spectra festival there this year. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Northwood planning on new building in Banchory

Estate agents Northwoods has launched plans to open up a new branch in Banchory.

The 57 High Street address was formerly a barber shop, and was the town centre’s Royal Bank of Scotland before that.

The unit in question. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Owner Laura Mearns told us the Deeside plans came after an 18-month search to find the right premises.

New plans submitted to Aberdeenshire Council show how the frontage could soon be transformed.

It could be a busy shop for Banchory house hunters. Image: Northwood

Space satellite to boost internet signal at historic Drum Castle

A few miles along the Dee, historians are looking to the skies in their bid to enhance a tourist attraction.

Drum Castle, at Drumoak between Aberdeen and Banchory, is a popular visitor destination.

One of Scotland’s oldest tower houses, it dates back 700 years.

The impressive Drum Castle. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

But owners the National Trust for Scotland are now seeking to make some rather modern improvements…

And they are turning to billionaire tech wiz Elon Musk to help.

In a bid to boost the internet coverage at the landmark, they want to set up a Starlink satellite receiver and cables.

Internet is ‘slow and unreliable’ at Drum Castle

Papers sent to Aberdeenshire Council explain: “Internet coverage and service
is slow and unreliable at Drum.

“It is inhibiting not only staff operations within the properties but also customer services and visitor experience.

“For example, the lack wireless capability outside [impacts] functions and events, retail and café operations and holiday accommodation.”

Elon Musk.
Enter multibillionaire businessman Elon Musk… Image: AP

Testing took place last year, which confirmed the satellite system would be the best solution due to Drum Castle’s rural location.

A receiver would be installed on the roof of the tower, along with cabling and a new internet hub set up inside.

This, the heritage body says, will “minimise visual impact” on the A-listed tourist attraction.

The Deeside landmark is highly photogenic – but isn’t ideal if you want to upload a selfie. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Starlink is a satellite internet constellation operated by a subsidiary of American private spaceflight company SpaceX – which is run by Mr Musk.

It provides coverage to more than 70 countries via about 6,000 satellites low in Earth’s orbit.

The idea is to provide low-cost internet to remote locations.

The National Trust for Scotland has pledged to hide the Drum Castle internet equipment pretty much out of sight. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Have you had any trips to Drum Castle marred by poor internet, or do you enjoy a digital detox from time to time? Let us know in our comments section below

Planning Ahead last year detailed a string of repairs to the historic tower as freezing weather caused lumps of debris to fall from it.

We revealed how things got worse when “larger sections of mortar” were blown off the building in storms. 

You can see this week’s plans here:

Union Square plans

Caffe Nero update

Crown Terrace guesthouse

Inverurie nursery plans move forward

Cluny war memorial could move

Boddam church to become home

Fetteresso solar panels

Marischal College lighting 

Banchory shop takeover

Drum Castle internet plans