Auchenblae hotel plans rejected by councillors

Councillor George Carr has been carrying out a ballot survey.
Councillor George Carr has been carrying out a ballot survey.

Councillors have thrown out an application for a hotel in Auchenblae, following a tense debate at an area committee meeting.

A report before members of the Kincardine and Mearns area committee on Tuesday recommended that they approve the application, which would have seen a hotel, cafe and shop along with parking area and manager’s flat at a site to the west of Granom.

Opinion on the application has divided the village, which has been without a local pub since an explosion destroyed the Drumtochty Arms Hotel in January 2009.

More than 150 letters of representation were submitted to Aberdeenshire Council regarding the application, and a special meeting was held in the village recently to give residents a chance to have their say.

Many residents had concerns over the site, which is not zoned for development in the Local Plan and is within a proposed conservation area. But others argued that Auchenblae needed some investment, and it would breathe life back into the small community.

Mearns Councillor George Carr, who moved to refuse the application, said it had been a difficult decision.

Speaking at the meeting, he said: “Everybody in Auchenblae would welcome a pub, and I think that the community would benefit as a whole from it. But we spent an awful lot of time consulting the community of Auchenblae when putting together the Local Development Plan, and the clear message was that this particular site should not be developed. The landscape is important to the character of the village.

“I would love to see a pub in Auchenblae, but going on the views put forward by the community over the Local Development Plan, I cannot support this application.”

He was supported by Councillor Bill Howatson, who said: “We cannot engage the public in the Local Development Plan, taking their views onbaord and endorse it, only to overrule it when the going gets tough.”

Councillor Dave Stewart, supported by Councillor Jean Dick, argued to grant the application, stating: “People should be encouraged to develop the land that they own if it is going to be of economic benefit to the area.”