26 September 2019

Aberdeenshire Council approves plans for 550-homes development on Menie estate

Councillors have approved plans to further develop the Menie estate near Balmedie.

The proposed development by Trump International Golf Links Ltd will see the construction of 550 homes - a mixture of residential units with a minimum of 50 leisure/resort units - alongside community facilities, shops, offices, food and drink, landscaping and supporting infrastructure.

Earlier this week councillors approved a second 18-hole golf course on the Menie estate.

The decision to grant approval for the next eight chapters of the development across 85 hectares was taken at a full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council today (Thursday, September 26) when councillors voted 38-24 in favour of the plans.

Aberdeenshire Council's Planning Manager Mairi Stewart described the hybrid proposals as a "long-term investment" by the applicant.

She reminded councillors that approval of the original application called-in by the Scottish Government Reporter back in 2008 was for the completed construction of a five-star hotel prior to the development of any housing.

While accepting the latest proposals were "a weak substitute" for the original development, Ms Stewart said the applicant maintained that the hotel option was "no longer economically viable" and an economic impact assessment submitted for Phase 2 of the development had illustrated hugely-different market prospects compared to those a decade ago.

The current application had attracted just under 3,000 objections and a petition bearing 18,722 names.

The council’s Business Development Executive confirmed that the proposal would lead to an increase in direct and indirect job opportunities and diversified local economic growth.

While it was recognised that the current application was a significant departure from the allocation in terms of the original phasing and Section 75 agreement, she said it did meet the requirements of local and national policies.

Ms Stewart added that the existing allocation for development on this site within the current Local Development Plan - which was supported by the extant planning consent for development of this site - must also be considered as a further "strong material consideration" in this case.

Representatives for Trump International Golf Links said that the area was experiencing a glut of conventional hotel accommodation which the original proposal would only exacerbate, but stressed that the current proposals would expand opportunities in terms of wider tourism accommodation potential. The applicants also confirmed that the company was committed to a Phase 3 in the future.

During debate, several issues were considered including the impact of the application on the community of Balmedie due to the lack of a grade-separated junction north of Balmedie, the lack of clarity in terms of education provision and the application’s departure from the Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan.

Council Leader Councillor Jim Gifford said that while he was disappointed that there would be no five-star hotel on the estate, he fully accepted that there was currently "huge over-capacity" in the City and Shire and said it was now "unrealistic" to expect a hotel to be built.

His motion to support the proposal under delegated authority was seconded by Councillor Sandy Wallace who said it was inevitable that a development of this type and scale would change over time.

Councillor Richard Thomson, speaking on behalf of the Opposition Partnership, moved that the application be refused and that the applicant be invited to return with an improved proposal. He said the applicant had promised something transformational but had not delivered.

His amendment was seconded by Councillor Paul Johnston who maintained that the current application was being de-coupled from the original conditions set out by the Scottish Government Reporter.

The full discussion can be viewed online once archived via: https://aberdeenshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/home