Last Orders at Historic Drovers’ Inn

Bridge of Feugh near Banchory
Bridge of Feugh near Banchory
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One of Scotland’s most historic former drovers’ inns is set to call time almost 400 years after a hostelry was first built at the site.

The Feughside Inn at Strachan, near Banchory in Aberdeenshire, was once an important staging post on the ancient Great North Road between Inverness and Edinburgh and its records as a drovers’ inn date back to at least 1644.

But council planners are now recommending that the inn should be allowed to cease trading as a hotel and form part of new residential development at the site - despite furious objections from local residents.

Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Marr area committee, who are meeting in Alford next Tuesday, are being urged to grant an application for change of use of the popular hotel and to give the go ahead for the erection of three homes at the site.

According to a report to councillors, the owners of the historic inn see no future in continuing the business as a going concern. The hotel and pub has failed to find a buyer, despite being on the market since August 2011.

The application has attracted 30 objections from local residents, protesting that change of use would be a loss of an important community facility and have a detrimental impact on tourism in the area.

David Hector, the chairman of Finzean Community Council, states in a letter to councillors: “The inn is of major historic significance being an important staging post on what was the Great North Road between Inverness and Edinburgh and it was originally a Drovers’ Inn with records dating back at last as far as 1644.

“Over the years it has provided a constant local source of employment for many generations of local people.”

He continues: “It sits at a significant road junction where the important tourist route of the Cairn O’Mount crosses the South Deeside road. Until recently, even after the introduction of the smoking ban and drink driving laws, the use of the inn by both locals and visitors alike was extensive and constant. We see no reason to believe that the business is no longer viable.”

And he warns: “If planning permission is granted the inn’s facilities and services would be lost forever.”

Stephen Archer, the council’s director of infrastructure services, is recommending approval of the two applications. He states that a letter of economic justification claims the business is no longer commercially viable and attempts to sell the business over the last year have failed to attract any interest from buyers

Mr Archer continues: “The letter states that if the application is to be refused, the proprietor will have no choice but to cease trading “

He adds: “This application is particularly sensitive. This is evident through the volume and content of representations received. The loss of this tourist and community facility would be extremely regrettable. However, when assessing the supporting documentation against the relevant policies of the Aberdeenshire Local Plan, the applicant appears to have satisfied the desired criteria. There is no evidence to suggest the applicant has withheld any information regarding alleged formal offers, nor is there evidence to imply there has been any deliberate attempt to mismanage the business in order to gain the support of the planning authority.

“Considering the current financial situation and the fact the business has now ceased trading, it is unlikely to attract investment for a continuation of the business in the near future. While this an unfortunate circumstance, refusing permission for a change of use would only result in the building remaining unused and in a vacant state and therefore impose further financial loss and burden to the applicants.”