Controversial plans for 245 flats on the edge of Aberdeen’s iconic Rubislaw Quarry look likely to go ahead – despite being voted down unanimously by the council.
City councillors last night branded the decision to allow Carttera’s £70 million nine-storey development to go ahead a “disgraceful slap in the face” and a “harsh blow”.
A Scottish Government reporter has been considering an appeal launched by the Canadian developer Carttera since the local authority’s planning committee rejected the Aberdeen plan in June.
David Buylla, appointed by ministers to consider the case, has now indicated he is “minded to allow the appeal and grant planning permission,” subject to conditions.
Housing plans for the site have long been opposed by the Aberdeen public, with Carttera proposals for nearly 300 homes previously rejected by councillors.
On this occasion, more 400 people objected to what some have called a “prison block”, comprising striking stepped buildings on the northern edge of the quarry.
The council’s planning committee unanimously denied the application in June, despite planning officials recommending members back it.
The plans include a residents-only gym, function room, public bistro and promenade above the quarry, which has been largely out of public sight for decades.
Mr Buylla said: “My conclusion is that planning permission should be granted subject to the conditions that the council has requested, with minor changes to improve clarity to which the appellant has not objected.”
‘This is just a crazy, crazy decision’
Local protests against the plans have been led by Hugh Black, who wants to build a heritage centre celebrating the quarry’s past role in the city’s industry.
Before its closure in the early 1970s, it earned Aberdeen its Granite City nickname as millions of tonnes of the rock was excavated from it.
Still considering the reporter’s ruling last night, Mr Black said: “I’m shocked at the decision but that will be the same as thousands of others in the city.
“This is just a crazy, crazy decision to be made on such an important site in Aberdeen.”
The developer will have to sign up pay £3.4m for affordable housing and another £250,000 to go towards upgrades to nearby Hazlehead Academy, Hazlehead Park and local paths, before they secure permission.
The payment would also cover upgrades to Hamilton Medical Practice and other existing health facilities in the city.
Local Lib Dem councillor Martin Greig described the news as “a harsh blow”, adding: “The opposition to this was enormous and it was hard to find anyone in favour.”
“This reversal is really discouraging and disappointing and thousands in the city will regret this decision.
“The Scottish Government has simply brushed away the concerns of the council and residents.”
Jennifer Stewart, a fellow Hazlehead councillor and deputy planning convener, said: “I am surprised given it was unanimously refused.
“But the applicant was going to keep trying and trying, if this had failed they would be back with a different plan.
“That is the nature of how they are, they would keep going until it was approved.
“Local people will be disappointed.”
Adding his concerns, the area’s SNP councillor John Cooke highlighted the planning committee felt the proposals were “contrary to half a dozen of the policies in the local development plan”.
Calls for government minister Kevin Stewart to intervene
Meanwhile the council co-leader, Conservative Douglas Lumsden said the U-turn was “disgraceful”, adding: “”For the reporter and government to go against that decision – not on a matter of national importance like a power plant or big infrastructure but purely a housing development – is a slap in the face to local government.
“Kevin Stewart, the planning minister, needs to step up here to be Aberdeen’s voice in government and we need to hear what he’s going to do.”
Last night Mr Stewart, the Aberdeen Central MSP, said: “Mr Lumsden should know that, as per the ministerial code, I have recused myself from taking part in any planning decisions in Aberdeen.”