Housing refusal is chance missed for Luthermuir

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The owner of a Luthermuir woodland which Scottish Government reporters turned down as a site for housing when they conducted their investigation into the Aberdeenshire Local Plan, has said that the rejection of his proposals could turn out to be a chance missed for the village.

John McWilliam of the Laurencekirk-based farming company N.J. McWilliam & Co, said he was disappointed that the reporters had gone against his plans for development in Caldhame Wood.

“I am disappointed not just for myself but for the people of Luthermuir as well, as the development would have sorted out quite a few problems, including access to the hall and park.

“The development was not my suggestion. It was put forward by villagers at a public meeting and was subsequently supported by councillors.

“The decision has been made in the meantime and we have to accept it.”

Mr McWilliam made it clear however that the existing planning permission for nine houses in the wood which he holds still stands.

“We were looking at a development of 49 houses, including the nine for which we already have permission.

“Our intention is to see those nine houses built and in theory we could start work at any time, but that is unlikely in the current economic climate.”

Mr McWilliam explained that by creating an entrance on to School Road from the proposed development site, they were deemed to have made a “significant start” to work and that was enough to keep the planning permission live.

“We have not thought about our next move and we have not made any attempt to sell the site with the planning permission.

“Houses will be built sometime, but in the present climate, nobody is rushing to build houses.”

In rejecting the wood for development, the government reporters recommended instead three fields elsewhere in the village for inclusion in the Local Plan. They were two fields which make up the church glebe and another at The Chapel.

“Whether these fields will be any better for Luthermuir I would not like to say and I would guess that development of them is a long way down the line.”

The reporters went against development in the wood because they did not want to see woodland lost.

Mr McWilliam’s company proposed to develop half the wood and give the remaining half (12 acres) to the village.

“If our proposals had been accepted the park would have become a village green and the remaining woodland would have been the property of the village to look after as they wished.

“Now the wood remains commecial woodland. It is regenerating at the moment but it will need to be managed on a commercial basis.

“The wood could have been managed as a community asset rather than as a neighbouring commercial woodland.”

Mr McWilliam would not rule out his plans for the wood being resurrected some time in the future, saying: “The door is never completely closed.”