Site visit to disputed Port Erroll coffee plan completed

Buchan advisers attended a short but tense site visit to Cruden Bay this week to verify the location of a proposed cafe at Port Erroll harbour.

They reviewed the application earlier this month, but agreed to visit the site before making a final decision which will come back to the committee next week.

The applicants – a family from Cruden Bay – are hoping to get the green light for the new facility to be called the Harbor Dunes Cafe.

It would be located on the land at the end of Harbor Street that was previously used to dry salmon fishing nets.

Port Erroll Harbor Ltd has agreed to lease the land if the project gets the green light.

It is hoped the lease will provide much-needed funds to repair the historic port.

It was estimated that the necessary work would cost over £2million.

During the site visit, which lasted just seven minutes, councilors were able to see how the cafe would fit into the surrounding area.

Those involved in the bid were also present and were joined by some members of the public.

Project architect Steve Brown, who brought his dog Geordie, said the app had “met all planning criteria”.

He added: “The design is quite appropriate for a port, it is based on shipping containers with wooden cladding.”

Mr Brown noted that six of the old mesh drying poles would have to be moved elsewhere on the site, but stressed that they would not be washed away.

He added: “It will give the Port Council some financial return and as part of that it will give them better access to funding for repairs.

“The pier is in a very bad state and if they have a steady source of rental funding from here, it gives them the opportunity to access more grants.

“It’s a port first, a conservation area second.”

Local historian Mike Shepherd attended the site visit on behalf of the Port Erroll Heritage Group.

He said: ‘What is proposed, at the heart of it, is a cafe to be built from modern steel shipping containers, which is not in keeping with the heritage of the area.

“Apart from the planning process itself, the people of the village were not asked about these plans.

“There is a disconnect between people here at the port and the rest of the community.

“A cafe would encourage tourism and be a convenience for visitors, but why would they want to put it here when there are other spaces in the port area?”

Last month, the village welcomed Dracula fans from around the world to mark the novel’s 125th anniversary.

Irish author Bram Stoker penned much of the classic tale while at Cruden Bay.

As part of the celebration, visitors walked around the village to show them areas related to Dracula’s writing.

Mr Shepherd, who himself has written books on Bram Stoker, Cruden Bay and Dracula, took part in the tours.

He said Experience Transylvania operators were “so impressed” with the pilot tour that they plan to return in the future.

Mr Shepherd added: ‘This is the start of international tourism, exactly the sort of thing Aberdeenshire needs with the end of oil.

“Aberdeenshire has a lot to offer and Cruden Bay and its connection to Bram Stoker and Dracula are increasingly attracting international attention.

“The drying lawn here is an authentic part of the heritage linked to the port.

“Bram Stoker would recognize this place, he talked about it in one of his novels.

“A vital part of the tourism industry here in Cruden Bay and Aberdeenshire is preserving the heritage of places like this.

“International tourists want to come here to see the harbor Bram Stoker wrote about and the beach there, not a totally out of place modern cafe blocking the view and destroying the authenticity of the village.”

He added: “Is it worth destroying the heritage and authenticity of the place? Not at all.

“The Port Erroll part of Cruden Bay is one of the best preserved Victorian fishing villages on this part of the coast and for tourist reasons we wish it were.”

Meanwhile, local resident Margie Davidson, who has lived in Cruden Bay for 40 years, said she was “totally okay”.

The village regularly hosts bus tours and visits from local groups, but Ms Davidson said there was nothing to offer those who stopped there.

She said: ‘A cafe there is desperately needed, there are all these people and nowhere to go.

“I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the village, and the feeling with the mums at school is that they would like a coffee.”

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