Plans for the creation of 500 new homes on Trump International’s Menie Estate are being recommended for approval despite planners admitting they are a “significant departure” from policy.
Local councillors will get the chance next week to make their views known on the £150 million proposal which has attracted 2,918 objections and an 18,722-name petition against the development.
Among those objecting is Belhelvie Community Council which stresses that the proposal is – first and foremost – non-compliant with the council’s own Local Development Plan.
Members of the Formartine Area Committee, which meets in Ellon on Tuesday, will debate the merits of Trump International’s proposal which would also see a minimum of 50 leisure resort units created alongside community facilities – including a town hall and gym, shops, offices and food and drink outlets.
But the final decision on the controversial plans will ultimately be made by a full meeting of the local authority later this year.
Councillors will be reminded that as part of its original planning consent from the Scottish Government, Trump International’s housing proposal was granted in order to assist in funding the development of the golf resort and a 450-bed hotel and 36 golf villas which was seen as a way to develop and diversify the economy of the north-east by promoting the tourism sector.
Subsequently, the housing was allocated in the Local Development Plan, but planners accept that had it not been part of the overall outline planning permission it is “unlikely” that it would have been allocated in the LDP as other sites would probably have been preferred by reason of being in more sustainable locations.
Planners say that given that Phase 1 of the overall development should have been completed before any houses were constructed, the council could maintain its position and use the lack of sufficient development as a primary reason to refuse the application.
But in report to committee the department states: “It is recognised that the current application is a significant departure from the allocation in terms of the original phasing and Section 75 but meets the requirements of other key policies.”
The council’s Business Development Executive has commented that the proposal “fits well” with the Regional Economic Strategy and proposals such as this would help “diversify the economy” as well as help to mitigate other weaknesses in the regional economy such as the lack of affordable housing.
Recommending a delegated grant, the report concludes: “The Planning Service considers the potential economic benefits of the proposed development to have considerable merit.
“The residential development is considered to be acceptable as a departure from the Settlement Statement, in particular the phasing element.”