Aberdeenshire Councillors have overturned a recommendation from officials to approve in principal a controversial development in Ellon town centre, after citing concerns over it’s impact on the town’s amenity and retail environment.
Members of the Formartine Area Committee refused to grant outline planning permission ‘in principle’ on the site of the former Haldenes supermarket in Ellon’s Ythan Terrace, which could in time have seen the demolition of the existing supermarket and its replacement with 63 flats and 10,000 square feet of retail space.
Councillor Isobel Davidson said that although she accepted that the site needed to be developed, she had “serious concerns” about the proposal in front of the committee. “There are a number of empty shops in Ellon - the problem is getting the retail mix right and I’m not sure this contributes”, she told colleagues on the committee. “I think we can make much better use of this site.”
Councillor Rob Merson agreed, suggesting that the scale of the buildings proposed risked creating a “concrete corridor through the green heart of Ellon.” Calling for a more sympathetic approach to the site, he disputed that the designs which had been placed before councillors were, as had been suggested, ‘purely indicative’. He had, he said, no problem with redevelopment, but was not happy tying that desire to these specific plans which, he said, lacked sufficient commercial space to attract a major retailer.
Councillor Gillian Owen said that while she was delighted that the proposal contained 35% affordable housing, it would nevertheless result in a reduction in Ellon’s overall retail space. The developer was in her view “still flying a kite.” Given earlier concerns which had been expressed, it was, she said, “disappointing that the developer hadn’t come back with something better.”
Councillor Debra Storr concurred that what councillors were being asked to agree to was “pretty specific”, and that she didn’t think it was well laid out for pedestrian access. “The site looks uncomfortably tight and squeezed”, she said. Acknowledging that there were limits to what councillors could do in order to attract major retailers, she said that retail units were still larger than others available in the town, but that it was “up to the developer to convince us.”