Possible Strategic Vision for Stonehaven or Non-Starter?

By Jane Cruickshank / May 11, 2023

A VISIONARY project for Stonehaven aimed at attracting up to £20 million in investment was shot down today by two of our councillors – with one branding proposals a ‘non-starter’.

The comment made by Cllr Alan Turner came when an Aberdeenshire-wide tourism strategy was under discussion at the Infrastructure Services Committee.

The Council was seeking comment on and delegated approval of its draft Aberdeenshire Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Development Plan – to enable the plan’s submission to VisitScotland, who hold the key to significant funding through the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

It was made clear in the meeting that various funding sources, including Government Levelling Up Fund would have to be applied to before projects could go ahead.

Suggested solutions not actual proposals

Tourist hot-spots across the Shire have been looked at by consultants, and ways to reduce infrastructure pressure and improve visitor experience identified.

Stonehaven’s beachfront – including the toilets, promenade and harbour – along with Sandend, Balmedie Country Park and the development of an Aire Network (sites for motorhome servicing and parking) is identified as a tier 1 hot spot for strategic destination development.

The consultants describe Stonehaven as ‘Aberdeenshire’s premier coastal resort town and southern gateway’. And they go on to set out a series of indicative proposals and a vision of a significant project at the seafront – akin to the erstwhile Grand Promenade proposals.

The consultants’ report includes the following recommendation: ”Stonehaven is deserving of an integrated masterplanning strategy with a focus on placemaking and public realm renewal. The project should be conceived at scale embracing multi-disciplinary design and community engagement and be considered as a potential project for large scale national funding programmes once plans are fully developed.”

At today’s meeting, Cllr Alan Turner said he supported the general ethos of the paper and welcomed things leading to a major bid. But, he said, he had concerns about some of the detail being proposed.

Mr Turner said the area described as a seafront park concept had recently been subject to the recent participatory budgeting process and subsequent successful planning application for redevelopment of the putting area.

”So I would contest that putting something like this out after that is going to confuse people.”

Mr Turner highlighted the indicated water play area saying the open air pool now hosted a small paddling pool – which used to be outside but had to be moved.

”So again that’s a non-starter,” he said.

Mr Turner said pedestrianising the seafront would detract from tourists geting to the area. And he said the suggested upgrading of sea defences had also been subject to consultation and not met with very favourable responses.

He added: ”I support the idea and would welcome that at the earliest opportunity you actually do reach out to the local members and people who have significant experience because what you have shown here is a non-starter in my mind.”

Meanwhile Cllr Wendy Agnew said she had been asked to a meeting about Levelling Up Funding – and had put forward a proposal to increase the size of Stonehaven’s leisure centre.

”I was a bit put out it was not even in this report, not even given a mention,” she said.

Saying she was aggrieved her proposal had been ‘airbrushed out’, she said she wanted an answer as to why her project was not in the paper.

The Infrastructure Services Committee made comment about the need for clarity on the indicative nature of the proposals and the need for full consultation and engagement – and approved the draft paper as requested.

Donald - May 12, 2023

The potential to improve Stonehaven through sensible development is vast and visionary change is much needed. Proper consultation will enable both residents and visitors to benefit greatly. All that is needed now is a community willingness to consider and then embrace appropriate change. History proves that trying to keep things the same is just ceding control of inevitable change.

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