Plans to make Torry’s waterfront a culinary hotspot have been dashed by the latest plans for “one of the most important sites in Aberdeen”, according to a leading councillor – as the public brands the proposed housing scheme “too dull”.
Planning convener Marie Boulton, who also heads up the work on the city centre masterplan, has revealed her despair as she hoped South Esplanade West on the banks of the River Dee could become a seafood “destination” in line with the area’s history.
More than three in four of our readers – 78% – said Aberdeen Harbour Board’s plans for the stretch between the Victoria and Queen Elizabeth bridges were “too dull”.
Only 16% were supportive of the proposals for eight flat blocks in our online polling, with remaining participants unable to decide.
Last month, the Scottish Government’s independent reporter confirmed she would overturn the council’s decision to refuse outline permission for the flat blocks, up to seven-storeys tall.
Aberdeen’s planning committee agreed the housing development – for up to 258 homes, a public square and 6,600 sq ft of retail space – “fell short” of the iconic scheme the site deserved.
But Elspeth Cook of the government’s planning and environmental appeals division, ruled there was nothing to justify their decision – paving the way for plans to progress.
Mrs Boulton told us: “The waterfront at Torry is one of the most important sites in the city and, because of this, was identified as a project in the city centre master plan.
“The site is important because it is the gateway into Torry, it also because it has direct access to the waterfront and is home to several rowing teams.
“There was potential for this site to become a destination for fish and seafood restaurants, reflecting the history of Torry and the fish houses still there.
“Perhaps other water sports could be incorporated and there could even be an interesting building which could be housing.”
The ruling from the government reporter is not final, with detailed plans still to be considered by councillors – but it means the principle of having nearly 260 flats on the riverfront has been approved.
‘Red line’ plans do not represent flats that might be built at Torry waterfront
Long-time member of the planning committee, Bill Cormie, moved to reassure concerned citizens at a recent public meeting.
The SNP councillor said: “What you are seeing in the newspapers, that’s not the design of the development or what the harbour board will put up.
“The images are what we would call the ‘red line’ so they will have to come back with a design.
“It’s the same with the BHS market development – it is not actually the fixed design that would go up.”
And the harbour board, too, was keen to emphasise the finished design would be more detailed and would be hoped to contribute to the “long-term transformation” of Torry.
A spokeswoman said: “We believe our application to confirm the principle of residential development represents a great opportunity for the city to take a significant stride towards realising the vision for waterfront regeneration along the River Dee, on a site which is currently predominantly industrial.”