FM Group, the developers behind the transformation of the Ury estate near Stonehaven, are hoping for a positive planning decision next week at the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee.
The plans for a £80m world-class golf development, designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, go before local councillors on Tuesday, March 22.
Jonathon Milne, director of FM Group, said: “This development, which has been several years in the making, has always represented a major opportunity for the region. However, at this time of crisis in the North-east due to the low oil price, the opportunity to create 200 jobs and a new world-class golf tourism destination that will generate £55.5million into the local economy cannot be passed up.”
In a report to councillors the application is recommended to be referred to full council for refusal.
The report states: “The proposed development will result in significant woodland loss at Slicewells Wood, which is Ancient Woodland of Long Established Plantation Origin dating back over 140 years. This is a large and rare example of this class of woodland and its permanent loss cannot be adequately mitigated or compensated.”
The FM Group have done studies to negate the effect of challenges faced in the development including pipelines on the estate and have received support from a cross section of the local community.
Johnathon Milne, director of FM Group added: “Crucially, we have the over-whelming support of the local community and the Community Council and I am confident that when the Councillors weigh up the major benefits of this development they will make the right decision. The cost of preparing such a golf course application using the world’s best design team means this opportunity is unlikely to ever be re-presented if rejected.”
Jack Nicklaus is also looking forward to getting a positive outcome next week. He said: “As a potential decision on the Ury Estate development draws near, we are getting even more excited about the potential to create a truly special golf experience - one we hope will be a source of tourism, economic impact, decades of recreation, and, perhaps most important, leave a proud and lasting legacy for Aberdeenshire.
“The stunning natural environment of this location will make for a spectacular golf course, which has the ability to attract people from all over the world. As our global reputation as good stewards of the land would indicate, our team’s goal is to not only protect this unique environment, but enhance it for generations to come. We have enjoyed designing a course, which blends into the existing scenery and uses every rise and fall to both challenge and entertain golfers. We hope that the planning decision is a positive one, and that my next trip to Scotland will be to officially commence the construction of the golf course at Ury.”
Nicklaus Design and FM Group’ independent environmental experts changed the orientation of the eighth hole on the proposed golf course, with the redesign avoiding mature trees and riverside habitats. The hole will now play west to east away from the ancient woodland on the banks of the River Cowie.
FM Group have said that this would allow poor quality ash, sycamore and sitka spruce trees to be felled and additional indigenous trees to be planted to the south and west of the eighth hole to form woodlands. The group has also undertaken an independent study into the impact on woodland and produced a management plan to protect the woods and wildlife in the area during and after construction.
Although areas of ancient woodland will be removed, they have said that the topsoil from this will be spread over adjacent agricultural land which FM have said will subsequently be managed as ancient woodland. A total of 1,000 new trees have already been planted on the estate with around 2,000 more proposed around the golf course and the enabling housing development as part of a comprehensive woodland management programme.
The Mearns Leader understands that three holes of the golf course go into the ancient woodland.
Mr Milne added: “The Forestry Commission has indicated conditions which they would like to see imposed if councillors grant planning permission which suggests to me that they can live with the development. We are committed to meeting those conditions and are already putting in place mitigation measures.”
Towards the end of last year, FM Group confirmed it had provided robust responses and plans which satisfied HSE, BP and Shell, Historic Environment Scotland, Historic Scotland and Transport Scotland and SEPA. The out-standing issues, in relation to flood prevention have now been resolved to the satisfaction of SEPA.
The development has received widespread support for the development across Aberdeenshire from tourism organisations.
Colin Crosby, Chairman of VisitAberdeen said: “We already have a range of styles of courses from great value for money courses to some of the best links courses in the world with Trump International, Cruden Bay and Royal Aberdeen. Further developments like the proposed championship courses at Ury Estate with the backing of Jack Nicklaus, will further cement Aberdeen City and Shire as a top choice golf destination for domestic and international visitors and we support this development.”
Stonehaven and District Community Council (SDCC) has supported the application.
Phil Mils-Bishop vice chair and planning secretary of SDCC said: “We recognise the economic benefit a Championship Golf Course would bring to the whole area, particularly one designed by Jack Nicklaus. While every development raises issues, Johnathon Milne and the Ury team have worked closely with the Community Council to alleviate concerns.
“The Community Council’s concern on flood risk has been met by a commitment to support our Independent Hydrology Assessment (IHA) initiative.”