The first phase of a £140million proposal to build hundreds of homes in an Aberdeenshire village was backed by councillors after a row yesterday.
Kirkwood Homes’ plan to develop land in Blackdog has been heralded as a “flagship” project in the Energetica Corridor, which promotes energy-efficient schemes from Aberdeen to Peterhead.
The bulk of the 600-home estate has been put on hold until the completion of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR), but developers are eager to build a pilot project of 48 houses.
Members of the Formartine area committee voted to grant planning permission.
But the vote followed a heated debate which one councillor said descended into “farce”.
Mid-Formartine councillor Paul Johnston called on the developers to make wholesale changes to the layout they had proposed, to leave space for a community-run shop and build a path to the AWPR.
“If we don’t get it right at this stage, nothing goes right in the future and then you can only make minor changes,” he said.
But his proposal found no support among his fellow councillors, and committee chairman Rob Merson described his comments as unacceptable.
The Ellon and district councillor said: “It is not acceptable to go into this minutiae in a public forum – we cannot redesign the whole development. You have failed to convince this committee.”
His comments were echoed by Turiff councillor Anne Robertson, who said: “We’re not planners, we’re not designers, and it worries me we’re getting into this level of discussion. We have to judge it on what’s in front of us.”
When Mr Johnston continued his argument, she added: “This is a farce.”
Kirkwood Homes has agreed to provide the statutory requirement of 25% affordable homes – a move they were praised for making “without quibble” – but the committee questioned why the properties had been “shoved in one corner”.
Mrs Robertson suggested if they cannot be integrated throughout the whole development, then the design of the affordable homes should not make them stand out from the other houses.
The site also has allocations for a primary school, employment land and other facilities. The second phase could see the remainder of the homes built, post 2017.