plans to build a hotel with pub, restaurant and farm shop on the outskirts of Auchenblae will go against the character of the village and be in an unsafe and unsuitable location, according to a group of local villagers.
Drumtochty Castle Ltd want to replace the original Drumtochty Arms Hotel, which was destroyed in an explosion in January 2009. But their plans to re-build on the original site in the centre of the village have been abandoned in favour of a larger-scale development proposal to the west of Auchenblae.
The small community has become divided on opinion over the application, with some welcoming the investment in the village and the prospect of a new pub, while others are concerned about the location.
The Observer has spoken to a group of villagers - who wish to remain anonymous - about their concerns.
One resident explained: “A couple of years ago the whole village took part in the process to develop the Local Development Plan.
‘‘The residents were united and vocal about the fact that they did not want any development to the west of the village, and it took months of consultations to come up with a final draft that eventually earmarked land on the east side of the village for development.
“The application does not comply with policy for building in the countryside. Now a decision to over-rule that plan could be made in the space of three weeks.
“It’s as though the village is being held to ransom - we are being told that if it isn’t built on this site then the developer will take his investment away from Auchenblae and we will never have a pub - but that is not the case. There are other options.
“A lot of people who object to the plans feel a bit intimidated. The supporters want a pub, but they are not looking at the bigger picture. They are being told that it is this or nothing.
“We all want a pub, it just has to be in the right location for the character of the village.”
Another resident said: “It’s hurtful to suggest that we don’t want a pub. While we have lived here we have supported three shops and two hotels. It is not that we don’t want a hotel, we want that as much as anyone. The plans submitted for the original site were great and I don’t see why he wouldn’t want to re-build his pub there. This has turned villager against villager and the community has been divided.”
The group are worried that the developer, whose plans for a hotel take up only a small portion of the field that he owns, is attempting to pave the way to add more housing and development to the west of the village. Access to the site via the Glen Road would pose problems as it is only wide enough to be a single track road, and large vehicles already struggle to travel safely round the corner.
n Members of the public have until May 16 to comment on the plans on the Aberdeenshire Council website.