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Moray builder wins 15-month planning battle to get permission for cafe overlooking Bow Fiddle Rock

Businessman Sandy Laing, pictured right, and architect Ian Sutherland McCook at Bow Fiddle Rock.
Businessman Sandy Laing, pictured right, and architect Ian Sutherland McCook at Bow Fiddle Rock.

A retired Moray builder has won a 15-month battle with council planners to fulfil his dream of building a cafe overlooking one of Scotland’s most famous natural landmarks.

Sandy Laing, from Portknockie, has long held the aspiration of opening an eatery near the Bow Fiddle Rock to create local jobs and keep visitors in the village.

His vision was left in tatters earlier this year after Moray Council planning officials threw out his proposals – saying it would be “incompatible” with neighbouring firms while not redeveloping the entire coastal site.

Bow Fiddle Rock is one of Scotland’s most celebrated natural landmarks with the formation regularly featuring as part of national tourism campaigns.

Bow Fiddle Rock was named because its shape resembles the tip of a fiddle bow.

Councillors have now unanimously agreed to overturn the decision while arguing it would support economic development in the area.

Mr Laing, who ran his own building company from the village, has estimated the planning wrangle has cost him about £6,500 to date.

He said: “I’m delighted people have finally seen sense about it. They wanted me to develop the whole site, not just the bit I own, but other people’s too.

“The Bow Fiddle Rock means nothing to me. I’ve been in Portknockie all my life. I’ve climbed to the top of the rock, I’ve climbed right through it, all many years ago now though.

“You just have to look at how many people go down there though to see how popular it is.

“I’m not doing it to make a lot of money. If it creates a few jobs, maybe on Saturday mornings for the children, maybe extra money for suppliers, then it’s all money for local people down the line.”

Mr Laing, who praised the support of his Kinloss-based agents 1 Architects for winning planning permission, added he would now begin the process of securing building warrants for construction to begin.

An artist impression’s of the proposed cafe.

Moray Council’s local review body, which determines planning appeals, unanimously overturned the refusal issued by officials.

Speyside Glenlivet councillor Derek Ross argued the cafe would improve the surrounding area.

He said: “It’s a rundown site. It would be an asset to the area. I think we should be encouraging economic development.”

Buckie councillor Gordon Cowie believed planners were “asking the impossible” of Mr Laing to redevelop the surrounding plots as well.

He said: “I have not heard any objections from anyone else on the site. Portknockie is a small village, they all speak to each other, they will have known all about it.”

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