Councillors today stood in the way of a “phoenix rising from the ashes” of a historic north-east hotel – blaming revamp plans blighted by “too many loose ends”.
The Old Mill Inn at Maryculter, outside Aberdeen, had been in operation for 200 years before it closed.
The doors were slammed shut after Storm Frank flooding in 2016, and the building was destroyed in a blaze this February.
Citing safety fears, owner Mike French said he had no option but to demolish what was left days later.
Prior to the fire, Mr French had formed plans to turn the site into a garden centre with five new homes alongside.
He applied to Aberdeenshire Council seeking permission for the move, which would breathe new life into the “eyesore” patch of wasteland.
As well as the two-storey garden centre and properties, his blueprint included proposals for an antiques shop at the roadside spot.
Debate over proposals
The application was considered by the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee today.
The redevelopment plan had been backed by locals – with 34 letters of support received.
Those in favour of the plan welcomed the new retail units, creation of jobs and development on the unsightly demolition site.
However, four letters raised concerns regarding flooding, sewage issues and poor access.
Nature Scot also warned the development may have a “significant effect” on Atlantic salmon and freshwater pearl mussels in the nearby River Dee.
Despite the backing from residents, council planners recommended the application be refused.
While they supported the principle of redeveloping the disused site they noted that the work “would conflict with council policy”.
And officers said that “natural heritage sensitivity” and the historic value of the site had not been “adequately assessed”.
Planners also said that the addition of five houses would lead to over-development of the site.
Community group keen for change at Old Mill Inn site
North Kincardine Rural Community Council chairman, Henry Irvine-Fortescue, said members were in favour of Mr French’s plan.
He added: “Local residents would like to see some form of phoenix rising from the ashes that would bring improvement to the area.”
Mike Towers, of agents McLaren, Murdoch and Hamilton, said the owners appreciated the group’s support.
He added: “We hope this is the phoenix the community is looking for”.
Mr Towers went on to say that the issues raised by planners had been addressed.
He insisted the applicants were “happy” to continue working with the planning service to find a way forward.
However Alasdair Macdonald of the council’s roads development team expressed some reservations.
He told the committee that the existing junction was a concern – and suggested that the increased use of vehicles could raise the risk of accidents.
Councillor Dennis Robertson asked whether the decision could be deferred so that Mr French could answer any questions.
Senior planning officer Gregor Spence appeared to rule that out.
He argued that the application had been a work in progress for over two years and the outstanding issues have not been addressed in that time.
Councillor George Carr said that while he wants to see something happen to the site, he felt the application was “premature”.
Mr Carr added: “There are far too many loose ends here.”
Provost councillor Bill Howatson led calls to reject the proposal, and it was unanimously knocked back.
Check out our new planning round-up to see the latest proposals lodged across the north-east HERE.