A north-east forest dating back hundreds of years could bunker plans for an £80million Jack Nicklaus golf resort on a historic estate.
The plans by the FM Group for an 18-hole course and 90 homes at the Ury Estate, on the outskirts of Stonehaven, will go before the Kincardine and Mearns area committee on Tuesday.
The course is scheduled to be designed by legendary US golfer, Mr Nicklaus, but, in a report going before the committee, members are being asked by Aberdeenshire Council’s planning service to back refusal of the plans – citing the impact on Slicewells Wood.
The FM Group have said the 90 houses proposed would be used to fund the development of the golf course.
Forty-four of the houses, situated to the north, are proposed near the woodlands, which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
The FM Group already have permission to build 230 homes on the land, and last year began work to restore the B-listed Ury House as a hotel and clubhouse.
But the local authority said 470 of 580 trees on the estate would be lost as a result of the development and that has sparked concerns.
The developer has said it would carry out compensatory planting and soil relocation to make up for the loss.
However, the report added: “No compensatory planting or mitigation could offset the permanent destruction of this level of ancient woodland, and the benefits of the golf course are not considered significant enough to outweigh that.”
Forestry Commission Scotland and the council’s transportation and environment teams are all objecting to the plans.
Yet the document also indicated that the development will create roughly 120 jobs locally, adding it had potential to be a “key visitor attraction” which would bring “significant economic benefits” to the area.
It stated: “It is fair to say a championship golf course in Stonehaven could attract golfers to the town, which could result in an increase in visitor numbers to Stonehaven Golf Club as a knock-on benefit.
“[There could also be] potential benefits to other courses in the area – Portlethen, Peterculter, Banchory Golf Clubs to name a few.”
FM Group director, Jonathon Milne, responded that since the development is a departure from council policy, the recommendation was “to be expected”.
He continued: “However, we are confident that the work carried out by our team and independent experts in addressing the majority of concerns, the overwhelming local support for the development and the significant local, regional and national economic impact will outweigh the negatives.
“Jack Nicklaus and the team at FM Group are committed to creating one of the most sought-after resort experiences in the world at Ury.”
The committee has been asked to comment on the plans before they are decided by a full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council.