ST LEONARD'S PLANS COME UNDER ATTACK

STONEHAVEN Community Council have objected to plans for the controversial redevelopment of the former St Leonard's Hotel.

Friday, 15th January 2010, 9:10 am
Updated Friday, 15th January 2010, 11:12 am

The council's first meeting of 2010 saw lively discussion amongst council members and concerned residents about the flaws in Kirkwood Homes' planning application.

Many voiced the belief that the plans constitute a huge overdevelopment of the highly prominent site, and that such a building would fly in the face of the council's conservation area policy.

There were also concerns about the stability of the site, drainage and traffic issues and the cutting down of mature trees.

At the well-attended meeting on Tuesday night, one member of the public said: "This is total overdevelopment of a very prominent site in Stonehaven. It would be horrendous, absolutely horrendous."

Another added: " I'd just like to point out that since the whole area is a conservation area, Aberdeenshire Council has a clear list of regulations about what is appropriate in these areas and this application flies in the face of just about everything they say. If they grant this application it would make a mockery of the whole thing."

There are currently two planning applications pending regarding the hotel - one for the partial demolition of the current building and another for the building of the townhouses and apartments themselves.

The applications have attracted almost 60 letters of representation from members of the public, and it is understood that due to an error in listings the time period for submitting representations has now been extended until early February.

One letter stated: "The proposal appears to be in conflict with Aberdeenshire Council's conservation area policy and should be rejected on these grounds alone."

Another said: "I put no weight whatsoever on the fact that the developer has already amended his proposals to be seen to be complying with the wishes of the people. I have little experience in planning matters but the norm appears to be for the developer to ask for something utterly ridiculous in the first place so that when he is seen to give way and amend it to the monstrous proposal he thought of initially, then it will be accepted second time round."

The Community Council listed various grounds for their objection, including the statement that the proposed extensions are not inkeeping with the original building and that the apartments look more like holiday apartments than flats.

Other letters of representation to Aberdeenshire Council speak of the partial demolition of the hotel as encouraging vandalism, and one, received on December 24, reads: "Since the building was purchased by the present owners I have contacted the owner's agent Knight Frank and the police on a number of occasions to report vandalism and break ins to the hotel building.

"Partial demolition with no approved follow up on development plan would, in our opinion, only enhance the impression of neglect and increase the risk of further vandalism and the more serious risk of fire setting."

The planned development suffered a major blow just days after this letter was written, when fire ripped through the building on December 30. Grampian police have launched an investigation to find those responsible for setting the blaze.

Despite this setback, Kirkwood Homes maintain that they will be going ahead with their application.

They are currently assessing the extent of the damage caused and the potential implications this will have for the application, which aims to create 14 apartments and eight townhouses.

Niall MacLeod, Land Manager at Kirkwood Homes Ltd said: "Since acquiring the building in late 2008 Kirkwood Homes Ltd have made every effort to maintain the site, keep it secure and wind and watertight. It would appear from the initial investigations that mindless vandals have broken into the secure site and started a fire which has caused extensive damage to the building. Kirkwood Homes Ltd would like to thank the local police and fire services for their actions in dealing with the fire on December 30 and will continue to liaise with them to determine the cause of the blaze.

"A structural survey will be undertaken as soon as possible to appraise the condition of the core of the building and determine any remedial works, which may be required in the short term to protect the integrity of the structure and its suitability for conversion as part of the current development proposals."

He added: "Our plans to transform this derelict site into a high quality residential development will continue. Kirkwood Homes Ltd is committed to taking appropriate action to preserve the core part of the building. We will continue to liaise closely with Aberdeenshire Council to keep neighbouring residents and Stonehaven Community Council advised of further developments."