Plans for a £40m project including a five-star hotel have won backing from councillors in Aberdeen, despite being on green belt land.
The proposals, by north-east property tycoon Alan Massie, prompted concerns from locals when they were first revealed in 2015. The Scottish Government was urged to “call in” the application but declined.
Now it has emerged that officials have granted planning permission in principle to developers Carlton Rock, despite it being on green belt land near Hazlehead park.
The firm will now develop detailed proposals for the site and has pledged to consult with the local community.
Proposals for the massive scheme first emerged in 2015 and feature a 200-bed hotel, spa, swimming pool, function and conference facilities, restaurants and a horse-riding centre.
In May that year, councillors backed the plans by 28 votes to seven amid significant concern about the scale of the project from residents.
The Scottish Government was urged to intervene and “call in” the application but decided against doing so.
Plans then stalled in 2016 as Carlton Rock and the council failed to reach agreement over the level of developer contributions required.
But they’re now understood to have signed a new legal document that commits the firm to investing hundreds of thousands into community facilities.
A letter from the city council to Carlton Rock director Alan Massie reads: “The proposal for the hotel does not comply with Green Belt policy NE2 in the adopted Aberdeen local development plan... however, it complements recreational uses that are appropriate within the green belt and does respond to an acknowledged need identified in the Tourism Strategy for Scotland and the Aberdeen Tourism Strategy.”
Mr Massie said: “The market has been very hard going but businesses are still looking to invest and I think there is some confidence returning.
“We look forward to working with the public and local community when we present our detailed plans.”
Hazlehead, Queens Cross and Countesswells independent councillor Jennifer Stewart is positive about the Carlton Rock plans.
She said: “We are still in difficult times economically and, if the development is sympathetic and in keeping with the wishes of local residents, we must look at it seriously.”
Fellow ward councillor Martin Greig, a Liberal Democrat, is less sure of the project’s merits.
He said: “This is a proposal that goes against agreed council policy.
“The key reason for opposing the application was the damage and destruction to the treasured area of Hazlehead Park.”
Fully detailed plans are to be placed before Aberdeen City Council and the community in the months to come.