Plans to convert Lairhillock Lodge into homes given green light
Plans to convert Lairhillock Lodge near Stonehaven into two three-bedroom and three four-bedroom homes have been approved by Aberdeenshire Council.
The former guest house has been closed for almost a year after it fell victim to the oil downturn in the North East.
Now, its owner Jenny Ironside has been given approval to extend the building and turn it into the new homes, one of which will be allocated as affordable housing.
Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure services committee said they were sad about the loss of the lodge before agreeing it was fair it should be granted a new lease of life.
Neil Stewart, lead planner, told committee members that the local authority has a duty to “protect tourism development and protect the unjustified loss of tourism facilities where we can”.
He added: “The policies require a demonstration that the development is unviable. We consider there’s enough information in the planning statement and that the financial accounts have been vetted by our economic development colleagues to allow the loss of this facility.”
Built in 2009, the business let an average of 4,400 rooms per year until 2016, but by 2017 the number of rooms booked per year halved.
As trade showed no sign of returning, the lodge was placed on the market in 2019, The Press and Journal reports.
Daniel Harrington, of T.H.E Architecture and Planning, speaking on behalf of Mrs Ironside, said: “During 2017, reduced oil prices significantly affected the local economy and there were major reductions in business travel in the Aberdeen area, which was compounded by the development of a large number of new hotels in accessible locations to Aberdeen.
“Some of the temporary works around the AWPR restricted access to the lodge for a temporary period and so had an effect on trade.
“The lodge, due to its location and design, has been mainly suited to the business trade and unable to compete with those new, larger hotels in locations close to the main transport hubs.
“More recently, the loss of the Lairhillock Inn next door has further detracted from the attractiveness of this location for guests. Losses have been increasing since 2018.”
Ian Mollison, North Kincardine councillor, added: “It has been given a good trial and we cannot fault the owners for their efforts.”
A separate application has recently been submitted by the owner of the adjacent Lairhillock Inn to turn it into five homes.
The committee also approved an application from the council for a new 12-home development of affordable housing in Rothienorman and the creation of 13 short-term holiday lets in Rhynie.
The former was granted despite concerns from Rothienorman residents over flooding, traffic worries and a perceived lack of need for the new homes.
It also meant a departure from the local development plan.
Meanwhile, the approval of 13 holiday lets on land north-east of Birch Cottage in Rhynie was granted to local man Ian Duxbury, though with an added condition that a travel plan be added to the application by Inverurie-based RJM Architectural Design.