Councillors defer new Ellon store decision

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COUNCILLORS have deferred proposals to demolish the existing Haldanes building at Ythan Terrace, Ellon, to make way for a new Aldi store.

Local members at Formartine Area Committee on Tuesday were divided on granting permission to the proposals, on the grounds that the design should be improved. They were unanimous, however, in welcoming development of the site, which has lain abandoned since the closure of Haldanes two years ago.

The proposals by the multinational will entail the demolition of the present Haldanes building which, according to Aldi’s planners, is not suitable for the supermarket’s needs, and would have to be replaced. Representations for the development were received at Formartine Area Committee from Aldi representatives Graham Nicolson and Stephen Robb.

Mr Nicolson said: “The present building is too compromised for our operation. Alterations to building would have rendered the project unviable.

“We have carried out extensive discussions with stakeholders, and incorporated their suggestions into our design. We’ve received unprecedented support from the community - our consultation returned a 96% majority in favour. All the local retailers we have spoken to have been supportive, and said that our operation would strengthen the town centre.

“The site is not without challenges. We have given careful consideration to the location of the store on the site.

“We expect to create around 30 jobs for local people and boost the construction industry, as well as regenerating an empty site.”

A presentation was also received from Community Council Vice-chair Mark Grant, who added the council’s support for the scheme.

However, a letter was read out on behalf of Ellon Strategy Forum Chairman Alan Cameron, saying that he supported the scheme, he felt that the building was poorly designed, and did not do justice to such a prominent site in the town centre.

While councillors agreed generally with the idea that the building could be demolished, there was less enthusiasm for the design for the new shop.

Cllr Richard Thomson broadly welcomed the proposals, but said that the design of the new building was inappropriate for the site in question.

He said: “This project has enormous regenerative benefit, and it will bring significant benefits to the town centre.

“That said, the design of the building would, I think, benefit from review by the Design Review Panel.”

Cllr Isobel Davidson disagreed, however, and moved for permission to be granted as presented.

She said: “There has been an enormous amount of support in the community for this project. I’m not a great fan of the building itself, but it’s probably the right size and shape. It’s not attractive, but it is appropriate.”

Cllr Gillian Owen seconded Cllr Davidson’s ammendment, saying: “It looks pretty awful as it stands, and I understand where my colleagues are coming from.

“However, it will definitely improve the town’s retail aspects, and the town is crying out for a better retail selection.”

Cllr Thomson moved to defer the decision, while Cllr Davidson moved to grant permission. Cllr Thomson’s motion was backed by Formartine chairman Cllr Rob Merson.

The motion won the vote, and the application will now be referred to the shire’s Design Review Panel, whose remit will be to make suggestions on improving the design of the building.

The planning process at the former Haldanes shop had been complicated by two other planning applications for the same site. Previous proposals had included a mixed housing/retail element, with one refused and the other granted - though to no avail, given agreement between Aldi and the owners.

Haldanes took over the store from Somerfield in 2009. However, the shop was vacated in 2011, after the collapse of the Haldanes business with millions of pounds of debts.