The Duke of Fife has spoken out over a long-running clash between himself and two North-east councils over developer contributions.
The Duke – David Carnegie – spoke to the Evening Express about his frustration over the dispute between Elsick Development Company (EDC) and the Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Authority (SDPA).
A court battle first began in 2013 when the EDC challenged the SDPA’s request for £7.5 million in developer contributions to its Strategic Transport Fund over the Chapelton of Elsick development.
The Supreme Court ultimately rejected the appeal by SDPA – a partnership between Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils – and the contribution was cut to £287,000.
The Duke, who is director of EDC, said: “The SDPA expanded the contribution into basically a land tax, and they’re not allowed to do that. They can ask us for money to clean up our own problems, and we are doing a lot of that anyway.
“We’ve put in a roundabout on the way into Chapelton which is £1 million to start with.
“We’ll have to build a junction at the other end of Portlethen and that’s £12m.
“There are various other improvements we have to make to the road system and that’s all fine – we take that on the chin – but we’re not prepared to put money into a pot that they could spend on other people’s problems.
“That’s what they were trying to do – to get a general pot which they could spend on, for example, Kintore Railway Station.”
He added: “The money they would have collected off of us wouldn’t have been collected for many years anyway, so this is really a debate about the future and we want to make it absolutely clear now that we didn’t want uncertainty about this so we wanted to get it resolved.
“The Supreme Court also heard it and the report was completely clear that they thought they were wrong, so I’m not sure why they had four goes at it.”
After the ruling in October both Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Council said they were reviewing the implications that the judgment would have for the area.
Aberdeenshire Council’s planning chief, Robert Gray, had described the Strategic Transport Fund – into which the funds would have been paid – as an “innovative mechanism” to ensure developers made appropriate contributions to improvements to infrastructure.
He also said the body would look to “mitigate the impact” arising from development for infrastructure through a developer obligations’ process.
The Duke spoke of his hopes for the future of the Chapelton development, which includes affordable housing.
He said: “We wanted to create a place that wasn’t a commuter-built development but somewhere that has all the facilities people will need.
“It’s somewhere to live, work and play.
“The momentum has kept going and we’re now looking at putting in some affordable housing because we want Chapelton to be for everyone.
“It’s a bad market at the moment but we’re willing to accommodate to people’s needs.”
He added: “We’re making plans to build some smaller houses now, which seems to be what people are looking for.
“For example, instead of our initial plan to build seven big houses in one area of the development, we’re building 20 smaller ones.
“We’re still very much in our infancy but we’ve learned a lot of lessons from when we first started off.”
Since the first residents moved into Chapelton in February 2015, it is now home to about 250 people with some 100 properties occupied.
The Duke said: “We’ve always had very strong local support and we’ve gone out of our way to accommodate local people. There are already people working in the nursery and living here, which is exactly what we want to see.”
The latest project for Chapelton has been the construction of the new Liberty Retirement Village, which is now under way, with a completion date set for 2019.
“We do view Chapelton as a place that is for everyone,” said the Duke.
“We’ve always promised people a lot of attention to detail – that we would think this through.
“We hope that we have given this a lot of thought.
“One of the early thoughts that went through my mind was that this is an incredible opportunity and I wanted to make sure we got it right.
“It’s very important to me.”