Developers have revealed plans to create a luxury £30m hotel outside Banchory are at an advanced stage – with the first guests expected to check-in by spring in 2024.
The fresh detail about the major project at Inchmarlo emerged as Aberdeenshire councillors approved proposals for an extra ten homes on the site.
In the weeks before the crunch meeting, locals raised concerns that the five-star resort was little more than a “dangled carrot” to gain planning permission for an accompanying housing development.
But Allan Rae, land director at Kirkwood Homes, insisted the homes would “unlock the funding” needed to build the Lucullan hotel, spa and lodges.
And he said the hotel plans are at an “advanced stage”, with work out to tender to four national building contractors.
Mr Rae also said that a contractor could be on site by June, with the aim to have the attraction open and welcoming guests by April 2024.
Councillors this week met to discuss the firm’s application for an extra ten homes at Inchmarlo, having already granted permission for 85 at the spot.
Banchory Community Council previously expressed reservations that the “the putative hotel is a carrot before our noses” which “could be snatched away”.
The group is worried that the proposals could ultimately result in the housing development being created while the hotel aspect is dropped.
Aims to create a hotel there stretch back more than a decade.
Plans for a 75-bedroom hotel, golf course and housing were initially approved by the committee back in 2011.
In 2015, the golf course was removed from the ambitious blueprint.
During the first phase of construction, Kirkwood Homes will provide 70 houses – of which 30 will be affordable.
An operator has already been found for the hotel.
Following the meeting, Mr Rae said: “We are delighted that our proposals have been approved.
“We look forward to getting on site to start delivering the initial 70 new homes, the first 30 of which will be affordable.
“Importantly, the approval unlocks funding that crucially allows work to commence on the £30m Lucullan five-star hotel and spa.’’
Mary Lennox addressed the committee on behalf of Banchory Community Council to voice doubts about the prospect of the Inchmarlo hotel.
She said: “What we fear is that, despite all the fine words, the housing will be built, the developer will walk away with the land value and there will be no hotel or resulted economic or employment benefit to the community.”
She added that the development would be “a major urbanised scar on the currently quiet and rural western approach to the town”.
Councillor David Keating agreed, urging his fellow councillors to refuse the application.
But committee chairman, councillor Peter Argyle, led calls to endorse the latest part of the project.
He said: “In terms of the housing developments, the change is minor.”
The matter went to a vote resulting in a tie at seven votes each.
Mr Argyle had the casting vote and approved the application.
By local democracy reporter Kirstie Topp