A LONG RUNNING dispute over the future use of a landmark Moray hotel was settled at a special meeting of the Moray Council planning and regulatory services committee on Friday.
Following a three-hour session when several of the 120 objectors to plans to demolish the former Tennant Arms Hotel made their feelings know, councillors took the decision to allow the application put forward by developer Tahir Pervaiz.
A decision should have been made in June – however, when the applicants representative was questioned by local councillor Douglas Ross and it questions emerged over the ownership of the Hotel.
As a result an entire new application had to be lodged, although those who had already objected were assured that they would not be required to resubmit and they would be given the opportunity to state their case.
That was finally done yesterday, when several objectors spoke in favour of retaining the building which dates from the mid-19th century. Mr Pervaiz was applying for it to be demolished to make way for a new general store and car park.
Despite objections that included the belief that such a development would compromise road safety by generating more traffic through Lhanbryde, Councillors agreed the application, with only Fochabers/Lhanbryde member Douglas Ross voting against the demolition.
Councillor Ross said after the meeting: “This decision was a bitter blow to many in the local community who have opposed these plans during the long process involved in getting to the hearing.
“It was clear local people were not against a new shop in the village, they just didn’t want it at this location, directly opposite the established and much appreciated shop and where traffic concerns have been highlighted for many years.
“All of the objectors mentioned the traffic problems and many highlighted that they were surprised that the transport department hadn’t recommended refusal of the application as the issues at this location are well known.
“I was shocked and appalled to find out during questioning that the figures used by transport officials to assess this development were more than five years out of date having been gathered back in 2011.
“These traffic numbers also don’t indicate what type of traffic was passing through the village but the number of HGVs and large farm machinery going past the Tennant Arms and the current shop are well known to local people.
“I’m very disappointed that the views of so many local people were not reflected in the final decision by the committee.”
Although not a member of the planning committee another Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor, Sean Morton, opposed the plan from the outset.
He said: “I am astonished that councillors have voted to tear down a Lhanbryde landmark – I was convinced they would see sense. I hoped that a vote today would ensure that The Tennant Arms would live on and have a viable future.
“I know that the village will be shocked by this news and will feel very disappointed. We aren’t just losing a beloved building but we’re going to have worse traffic conditions and local jobs may well be at risk. This was the wrong decision.”
Speaking on behalf of the developers Colin Keir, a partner at Plans Plus, said: “If we could have saved the building we would have – but parking procedures dictated that we needed that space.
“This is obviously emotional, but nothing stays the same forever.”