• An Aberdeenshire laird has claimed that he has been met with a “catalogue of abuse” over his plans to develop his Aberdeenshire estate
• Proposals to turn Breda House, near Alford, into a wedding and conference venue, and the addition of 21 homes on the grounds of Breda Park, have been met with “cornucopia of bitterness”, says Hamish McLean
• Mr McLean says two of his horses were deliberately poisoned, his tyres slashes and the body of a deer dumped at his doorstep by people opposed to his plans
Hamish McLean, who owns the 2,000 acre Breda Park estate near Alford, is planning to turn the B-listed Breda House into a wedding and conference venue and has already been granted planning permission to build 21 homes on his sprawling estate to help fund the restoration of his 19th-century mansion, constructed from pink granite.
He told of the hate campaign against his development plans at a local area planning committee where councillors were discussing proposals to build another four homes on the estate which would not form part of the enabling development.
Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Marr area committee were told that almost 20 objections had been lodged against two of the proposed houses, while a petition also outlined concerns about the detriment the scheme would have on the local school, infrastructure, wildlife and Breda House itself.
Mr McLean, however, told committee members the objections were personal rather than based on planning policies and that there was no reason to block the plans. He claimed he and his wife Lorna had been subjected to a catalogue of abuse which showed the “cornucopia of bitterness” surrounding the development. And he suggested the number of objections were disproportionate to the “innocuous nature” of the four planned homes.
Mr McLean alleged that two of his horses, which died on the same day, had been poisoned and that the tyres on his private vehicles and farm machinery had been slashed. He also said a roe deer had been shot and put on his back doorstep with a piece of scaffolding on top.
Mr McLean told councillors: “Despite a sustained catalogue of abuse, we remain focused on the goal of restoring Breda House and, through our good management, of securing not only the future of Breda Estate for all residents but also to create a future for Breda House that will bring prestige, jobs and business for the community.”
He added: “Whilst we recognise it is the democratic right of parties to express their opinions on planning issues, it is surely equally our democratic right to submit applications for the development of Breda Estate, of which we are owners, as we see fit.”
Mr McLean said in a statement today: ”My wife and I wish nothing other than to be left in peace to get on with our business, our lives. The proceeds generated from the sale of these sites are crucial to securing the Breda House enterprise for the future, of our achieving our long-term goals of bringing sustainable business into the community and of safeguarding this built heritage for Aberdeenshire.
“Whilst it is the democratic right of parties to express their opinions on planning issues, it is equally our democratic right to submit applications for the development of Breda Estate, of which we are owners, as we see fit.”
A spokesman for the McLeans said: “Breda House is a late Victorian Scots Baronial style Mansion designed by the eminent Aberdeen architect Marshall Mackenzie, built in 1894 and set in historic Breda Estate which is also owned by the McLeans.
“The McLean’s proposal for the restored and completed Breda House is to create a wedding, conference and meetings venue to rival the best. Their endeavours to complete the renovation of Breda House, to create their new business, a new business whose sustainability will bring prestige and prosperity to West Aberdeenshire, has taken them ten years so far.
“The last hurdle to completion, of raising monies through the four conjoined applications and then being able to sell the plots, has met with significant local opposition from those who perhaps cannot accept change.”
Opponents of the scheme, however, have dismissed Mr McLean’s claims about abuse as “hearsay”.
Breda Park resident Vicky Dawson said: “I don’t expect an idyllic landscape that will never change, but I do expect my local councillors to be brave enough to look at the applications and support the majority, rather than the landowner. Breda Park has already been consumed into a housing group.”
The area committee is to make a site visit to the Breda estate before making a final decision on the applications.