After decades of debate and a whole cabinet’s worth of contenders, one of the north-east’s biggest towns will soon be home to a large-scale supermarket.
Aberdeenshire Council took three hours and forty minutes to grill applications for four different stores in Stonehaven yesterday.
In the end, proposals by the FM Group for a supermarket, 50-bedroom hotel and restaurant on the Ury Estate were approved on a delegated grant.
The decision came despite some councillors arguing approval would be a breach of the emerging 2016 Aberdeenshire local development plan.
Councillors had been urged to refuse all four proposals – none of which formed part of the original plan – amid fears about their impact on the town centre.
Applications for the New Mains of Ury, the Mains of Cowie and the Mill of Forest were all refused.
The FM Group is also behind a £80million Jack Nicklaus golf course and housing development at the Ury Estate, and the restoration of the B-listed Ury House.
A spokesman for the Mains of Cowie’s developer, Stewart Milne Home, argued a decision on any Stonehaven supermarket would be “premature” as the LDP was still being reviewed.
Councillors Paul Johnston and Martin Ford said this should justify the rejection of all four applications.
However, director of the FM Group, Jonathon Milne, responded that the council’s CC1 site – proposed within the LDP for “small-scale retail use” – could not “provide a solution to address” the need for a supermarket.
He added: “The town centre has an established consumer base. The Co-op hold a monopoly. Overall we feel we are benefiting the town which is a view supported by the community council and the town partnership.”
Stonehaven and District SNP councillor, Graeme Clark, lodged the successful motion to approve the plans.
He said: “People in the town say ‘Banchory has got two, Huntly has got two or three, why have we not got a supermarket?’ I have come round to their way of thinking.
“If they are not bothered, why should councillors block it all the time? Stonehaven is a special place. The last thing we want to do as councillors is spoil it.”
Conservative North Kincardine councillor, Carl Nelson, said: “People in Stonehaven are screaming out for a supermarket, they have been screaming out for one for years.”
However independent democratic, Mr Johnston, said: “The best place for dealing with this would be in the public inquiry in the next local plan.”
The Ury Estate plans were backed by 27 votes to 18.
The Sluie Estate Trust’s plans to create a supermarket and petrol station at New Mains of Ury also came close to approval yesterday.
Stonehaven and District councillor Peter Bellarby proposed to grant the application – however his amendment was defeated by 31 to 19.
Brothers David and Richard Strang Steel, of the trust, were behind the initiative.
The project would have involved the demolition of unused farm buildings and the New Mains of Ury Farmhouse – which was the pair’s childhood home.
However, residents living in the cottages directly neighbouring the proposed development objected to the plans.
Speaking yesterday, David Strang Steel said: “We want to see approved what is best for both Stonehaven and Aberdeenshire.
“I think it is important to highlight that our application is located next to the AWPR (Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route) and adjacent to housing at Ury.
“Our site is in the most convenient location for the wider Stonehaven community, by which I mean Laurencekirk, Inverbervie, Durris, etc.”
Mr Bellarby added: “It is my opinion that whilst there may well be some impact, I don’t think it will be significant.
“If you want some reasons, look at Banchory, it has an out of town [Tesco] supermarket that doesn’t seem to have had any significant impact on the town centre”
However councillor Carl Nelson argued that the “safety aspect” for traffic coming off the A90 was a “concern”.
The application by Barratt North Scotland and Drum Development Co for Mill of Forest was also for 500 homes, employment and retail land and a bridge across the A90 Aberdeen-Dundee road.
The Mains of Cowie plans were for 250 homes, a school, community facilities and a supermarket at the site.