May 172013

By Sue Edwards.

On 21 May 2013 the Formartine Area Committee of Aberdeenshire Council will meet at the Kirk Centre in Ellon to discuss various planning matters.

One of these will be to decide whether to give planning consent to a retrospective application put in by Trump International Golf Links Scotland (APP/2012/2342 on the Council’s website).

The application is for “Full Planning Permission for Engineering Operations to Construct Car Park to Serve Golf Course and Proposed Clubhouse (Amended Design) (Retrospective)”.

A retrospective planning application is explained in the two paragraphs below taken from the Scottish Government’s Guide to the Planning System in Scotland.

“If you build something without planning permission, or if you don’t follow the conditions attached to a planning permission, the council can use their enforcement powers. Enforcement is important because it makes sure that everyone stays within planning law and the conditions of their planning permission.

The council will choose what action to take. If something is built without permission, but would have been likely to have been granted permission, the council may ask the person responsible to make a ‘retrospective’ planning application. This will then be decided in the same way as all other planning applications. If the council grants planning permission, there may be conditions attached.”

The reason for this retrospective planning application is that the finished works bear no relation whatsoever to the original planning application (APP/2011/3560) for which consent was granted on 13 December 2011, including the car park layout, lighting and the materials used in the construction.

You may think, fair enough, easy to make a mistake, but this is in fact the SIXTH retrospective planning application TIGLS have had to put in to Aberdeenshire Council.
Each time, the councillors on the Formartine Area Committee have waved the application through, although on this occasion they did agree on a site visit to view the car park layout, a section of the bunds built around a neighbouring property and the lighting, but had to make a further visit (no doubt at council-taxpayer’s expense) as the lighting had been switched off for the first visit.

Would any other builders or developers be allowed to run rings around our planning laws? Why have Aberdeenshire Council not put a stop to his cavalier attitude to our planning system? HOW HAS THIS BEEN ALLOWED TO HAPPEN?

Trump has recently announced his design for the hotel he is planning to build on the Menie Estate. It has been likened to a Victorian asylum, a holiday camp, a row of beach huts, and more. But perhaps we need not worry … perhaps it will look nothing like that. We will just have to wait and see what he chooses to build, regardless of any planning consent he gets.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Apr 262013

On April 23 the Formartine Councillors should have had two site visits to the Menie Estate parking lot – which had been erected in a manner inconsistent with the agreed permission.  The high bunds by the Munro home Leyton Cottage should have also been examined as they were not approved.  The second of the two visits was meant to take place at approximately 9pm, and was meant to show how the lighting affects the area: the Trump organisation did not show and did not turn the lights on – for the first time in residents’ memories.  Suzanne Kelly reports.

The 5.30 meeting was amazingly brief; so brief in fact I virtually missed it. Councillors attended the parking lot, and unfortunately most did not pay sufficient attention to the bund built on Leyton Farm road by the Munro’s residence.

I had written to the councillors involved to point out that the bund, not built per the approved plans, seemed to have slipped off the scope of the retrospective permission request.

These bunds block light, block view, and more importantly are blowing sand and dirt into the Munro property.

The photograph of the sign in this article shows sand built up since sandstorms earlier this month; it is at the entrance to the Munro’s driveway.

Only a few councillors had answered my email about the bunds and assured me they would look at the situation; according to residents who watched the site visit (note – no comments were taken from the public who were only permitted to observe proceedings), only a few of the councillors ventured to the other side of the high, incongruous gate separating the parking from Leyton Farm Road to actually take in the giant scale of the bund.

This bund must not be allowed to simply be described as ‘landscaping’ – a euphemism used all too often in planning applications as an unquestionable remedy for environmental upheaval and environmental damage.

For instance the planned football stadium for Loirston Loch was going to infringe on wildlife territory – two EU protected species and many coastal birds (long in decline) were to be negatively impacted, but at the time remedial screening and ‘landscaping’ was put forward as a remedy by proponents, although the actual value of such landscaping for wildlife is questionable.

Campaigners will work to ensure that there is no successful move to treat the earth bunds as landscaping.  The golf club owners seem very keen on planting fir trees on these sandy bunds. These trees, exposed to wind, salt spray and asked to grow on sandy soil keep dying, as illustrated.  They are replaced once nearly dead, an incredible waste of living trees.

The council may simply seek to consider the bund problem solved by forcing Trump to stop planting trees on them. This will not at all solve the problem of the lack of light, view or sand/dirt blowing into the Munro property, and is no solution..

Despite many requests to the Aberdeenshire council planning and media relations offices, there is still no satisfactory explanation of crucial questions.

I had been written to by Gordon Lyon who assured me weekly site visits had been carried out at the time to ensure compliance with the approved plans.  If this level of overseeing did take place, why then were parking and bunds erected which were non-compliant?

This question needs addressing.

Lyon also assured me that the temporary bunds were taken down – I had clearly described the bund by the Munro family home when I wrote.  It seems a porous parking lot surface was specified in the approved plan, which called for the layout to be sympathetic to the existing landscape.  In the event, a huge, rectangular, non-porous parking area was created.

These anomalies need to be addressed.

The temporary marquee is massive, and has metal sides with windows.  It is my understanding this structure can stay up for 28 days before it must be removed.  It went up approximately 6 days before this meeting took place.  Residents will monitor the situation.

A large party is scheduled for the marquee over this coming weekend; it seems that residents and wildlife will have to get used to such gatherings. Normal legislation permits noise up until 11pm at night, after which sound levels are to be kept low.  We will see how this is respected.

However, the most sensational part of the evening was a  non-event.

The ‘twilight’ visit was tentatively scheduled for 9pm.  I had been with the residents from 5.30 until this start time; we arrived from a resident’s home at 8:50pm. We knew the meeting might start late, as councillors first had to attend a meeting at Blackdog concerning controversial wind farm plans.

We waited.  No lights came on.  The full moon – which would have made determining the lighting’s effect and light spill very difficult anyway – was the only light.

Residents and supporters present commented that the lights had virtually always come on once it got dark. But not this evening.

At approximately 09:50 the first cars arrived  in the parking area.  Councillors assembled.  The lot remained dark.

One window in the clubhouse had light shining from it; I volunteered to walk down and see if anyone was in, but there was no answer at the locked door.

The councillors and onlookers waited.  Ms Malone, who had attended the 5.30 meeting never showed up.  Security, usually an all-pervading presence at the estate and  who are known to jump out in front of people at night were likewise nowhere to be seen.

Suffice it to say that even councillors sympathetic to the Trump organisation were not best pleased, and approximately 15 minutes later they announced they would be leaving, unable to see the effects of the lights.  The lights stand on extremely high posts, one of which is near the Munro cottage.

With no lights on, it was clear that nocturnal wildlife is in the area.  Bats, protected by EU environmental regulations were very much in evidence, as was an owl or two.  It was  brought up in discussion with residents that two modern buildings which replaced traditional steading buildings near the top of Leyton Farm road used to have bats roosting.

The new structures, again erected apparently without planning permission, are of a metal construction, and are not conducive to bats roosting.  How wildlife which may have roosted in the old buildings was dealt with when the new buildings were erected should be looked into by environmental council officers.

The steadings should likewise be scrutinised, and if planning permission was needed (as an expert in traditional buildings tells me is the case), then action should be taken.

Councillors were not making comments to the observers, but it was plain to see that no one was happy to have wasted their time.  Whether or not this disregard for a scheduled planning assessment visit will go against the Trump organisation in future will be watched closely.

For now, the bunds remain at the Munro property, light spill remains unmeasured.  But for the Trump organisation, everything is just fine.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Mar 192012

A proposal to build a road through woodland in Ellon has come under fire from a group set up to support the management of the area. The intended purpose of  road is to provide access for the development of 250 new homes. Those opposed to the plan believe the road is unnecessary, destructive, and in contravention of a Blench Charter. Friends of McDonald Park founder member Lynn Gilbert brings Voice readers the story.

The plan is being opposed by Friends of McDonald Park, a group set up by Aberdeenshire Council in 1990 when the Council bought the superiority of the Park from the charity Barnardos.
The aim of the group is to support the management of McDonald Park for the benefit of the community. We have done this by planting bulbs, trees and a hedge as well as regularly clearing litter from the ground and from the Modley Burn.

The Park was given to the Burgh of Ellon in 1928 by Sir James McDonald and is governed by a Blench Charter.

The terms of the Charter state that the Park should be used for recreational purposes only, that nothing should be done which is detrimental to the Park and that its area is not to be reduced in any way.

In 1996, we successfully opposed a plan by Aberdeenshire Council to use part of Caroline’s Well Wood, the east section of McDonald Park, as a bus park for Ellon Academy. On that occasion we raised the terms of the Blench Charter and an alternative solution was found without destroying any of the Park.

In 2010, builders Barratt East Scotland and Scotia Homes were given Council permission to construct 250 houses in Ellon’s Castle Meadows but it was only when marks appeared on trees in the east section of the Park, that it became apparent that the plan was to construct a road through it, from the development site to Golf Road. I made enquiries on behalf of the Friends and was told that the road had been approved by councillors.

In August 2011, the Friends were informed in a Council Estates Department letter that an S75 Legal Agreement for the application had still to be signed, and were asked for their views on the proposed access. The same letter stated that legal advice given to the Council was that:

“vehicular access must facilitate/improve public access to the park and cannot be granted purely to allow development”.

The Friends voiced total opposition to a road through the Park, stating that it would be in contravention of the Blench Charter since it would not improve public access to the Park, but was solely for the development. It would also involve the felling of a large number of mature trees in an area inhabited by red squirrels, bats and spring/early summer migrating birds.

It would seem that councillors were not satisfied with the legal opinion offered and they sought further advice several times from Sir Steven Stuart QC. This was given in a privately-heard report presented at a Formartine Area Committee (FAC) meeting on 6 December last year. It suggested that temporary construction access could possibly be granted, subject to a number of safeguards and agreements being in place.

  The Friends and many others have lodged objections to the planning application

On 17 January, a report to the FAC, again heard in private, proposed a temporary five year construction access which would become a pedestrian and cycle path once the five years had elapsed. This temporary access would be a tarred road with lighting and other services and which would involve the felling of at least 99 mature trees.

It would take a fifteen metre slice of the woodland at the Golf Road end, this increasing to nearer thirty metres at the top, a significant area of the Park.

It seems that when councillors first approved this access, they were not aware that they themselves were in fact Trustees of McDonald Park. It was in this capacity that councillors had to consider the application at their 28 February meeting, and as Trustees they rejected it.

This application is to be considered at a Planning meeting on Tues 20 March.

The Friends and many others have lodged objections to the planning application, and I have asked to speak at the meeting should it be heard there. Quite apart from the effect of this road on the woodland, a precious asset to Ellon, there is another matter to be considered.

Construction traffic using Golf Road would access the Park at the rear of Ellon Academy, an area used by a large number of Academy pupils and mothers with buggies walking into Ellon. There are two other access roads to the development, but some residents along these routes would rather see part of McDonald Park destroyed than have traffic pass their homes.

Interestingly, the site of this proposed access is given as ‘Castle Meadows’ on the planning application, when in fact it is McDonald Park. This makes it easy to overlook the reality of the situation.

Further info: Save McDonald’s Park Caroline’s Well Wood Ellon : Facebook Page
Image credit: Ian Jukes 

Sep 032010
Councillor Debra Storr has contacted Aberdeen Voice to explain her removal as Vice Chair of the Formartine Area Committee

On Tuesday 31 August, my ward colleague Councillor Rob Merson (SNP) sprang an emergency motion to remove me as Vice Chair of the Formartine Area Committee. To my astonishment, Rob was unable to articulate clearly what the emergency was, but the Chair, Councillor John Loveday (LibDem), agreed to take the motion. It was passed.

Councillor Merson cited as the reasons for my removal comments I made about my colleagues’ indecisiveness on the siting of a new Ellon Academy and my failure to attend some site visits.

I don’t think these have anything to do with me as Vice Chair, and indeed I have received no complaints or even adverse comments regarding my role as Vice Chair.

So what motivated Councillor Merson and the other Formartine Councillors to act in this way?
I know Councillor Merson doesn’t like me mentioning him in my blog –

– and of course we have political differences.

I think, however, that this is simply a continuation of the divide on the Formartine Area Committee post-Trump. Faced with a planning application at Menie, my colleagues are prone to saying things like, “We must press ahead as quickly as possible with this development”.


We have a duty to scrutinise all proposals and ensure compliance with the conditions of the permission granted by the SNP government.
Not being Vice Chair will not stop me doing that job. It will not stop me speaking out to protect the Menie residents whose homes remain under threat because my colleagues refuse to rule out compulsory purchase, thereby giving the Trump Organisation every reason to believe that whatever they ask for will be given.

Aug 132010

Shock after shock for Highland League fans as last Saturday’s results came in. Voice’s David Innes explains.

Deveronvale, perennially among the clubs tipped for trophies, are one of four clubs sitting on no points after Clach, unlucky at Buckie last week, came raiding and sauntered smugly back to the Highlands with all three points and a stunning 3-0 victory. Continue reading »

Aug 062010

By Dave Innes.

Two weeks in advance of the undoubted sterile dull predictability that will be the 2010-11 SPL, the Highland League kicked off on 30 July, with deposed champions Cove Rangers setting the early pace with a 5-0 win away at Nairn County.

Buckie Thistle, league winners last season for the first time since the late 1950s, opened by beating Clachnacuddin 3-1.

Continue reading »