Hope for ‘garden centre on stilts’ plan despite council knockback

Victor and Audrey Sang, along with business partner Mike French, hope to redevelop the former Old Mill Inn site at Maryculter.

Hope for ‘garden centre on stilts’ plan despite council knockback LDRS

Owners of a former fire-hit hotel have said they are “optimistic” that their redevelopment plans will go ahead despite initial refusal by councillors.

Victor and Audrey Sang, along with business partner Mike French, are looking to build a two-storey garden centre and restaurant on the site of the former Old Mill Inn at Maryculter in Aberdeenshire.

The development also includes five new homes and the renovation of the old mill to transform it into a retail unit and café.

The business partners bought the Old Mill Inn in 1989 and over the years the hotel hosted numerous events including weddings and birthday parties, but it closed its doors in 2014.

The pub opened in August the following year but the business shut for good after Storm Frank flooded the building.

The historic hotel, which had been in operation for around 200 years, was badly damaged following a fire in February and was demolished shortly afterwards.

Fire: The building went up in flames in February this year.Facebook

Over the last three years the owners have been working on plans to redevelop the site while retaining the C-Listed corn mill building that dates back to the 18th century.

They had submitted an application to Aberdeenshire Council for planning permission in principle that went before the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee on Tuesday, but it was refused due to a “lack of information”.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr French said he was “disappointed” the plan was refused but is “optimistic” it can still get the go-ahead.

He said: “There were two main technical points for refusal which we are actively going to address as soon as possible and we will be resubmitting our planning application within the next couple of months.

“We are optimistic because there is a consensus that something needs to be done to redevelop the site. It’s an eyesore at the moment and is not doing anybody any good.

“It will cost around £300,000 to repair the old mill which has been vandalised to the point that it is dangerous.”

The partners hope to build an “iconic” two-storey building constructed on stilts with a garden centre shop on the first floor and a restaurant on the second floor that would overlook the River Dee.

They say the new development would create new jobs in the area while also providing a new facility for locals and tourists alike.

Mr French explained that raising the new building would help to increase the flood area.

He said: “While everyone else builds walls or banks around their properties, what we are doing is raising the property, allowing the water to flow under the building so we’re not passing it on to any neighbours.

“We’ve only ever been flooded once in 2015 by Storm Frank despite what has been said. We were very fortunate that it never flooded even last year when we had the really bad floods, the Old Mill site was never touched.”

Mr French also said that the five proposed houses are “integral” to the planning application and will provide “much needed” family homes for Maryculter.

He thanked local residents for supporting their plans, and said: “It’s been a saga since 2015. We haven’t had an easy time but we thank everyone for their support and their patience.

“We all want something to happen on the site to move forward for the modern century.”

By local democracy reporter Kirstie Topp

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