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Flats proposal for famous Banff pub set to go back before councillors

By Kyle Ritchie

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Plans to convert The Ship Inn in Banff into two flats will be reassessed by councillors on Tuesday.

The Banff and Buchan area committee scrutinised the proposal by George Wood in November, which seeks to redevelop the property at 7 Deveronside.

They decided to defer their decision on the application so an integrated impact assessment could be carried out by Aberdeenshire Council officers.

Plans to convert the pub into two flats will be assessed by councillors again on Tuesday.
Plans to convert the pub into two flats will be assessed by councillors again on Tuesday.

The plans have attracted national interest due to the pub featuring in the classic 1983 movie Local Hero.

The bar's interior was used for scenes in Bill Forsyth's film, which starred Peter Riegert, Burt Lancaster, Denis Lawson and Peter Capaldi. It tells the story of an American oil company representative who is sent to the fictional village of Ferness on the west coast of Scotland to purchase the community and surrounding property for the firm. The Pennan Inn was used for exterior shots.

Film critic Mark Kermode and Lawson backed calls to save the pub.

The Ship Inn closed it doors when coronavirus restrictions were introduced and has remained shut for some time.

At the Banff and Buchan area committee meeting in November councillors were recommended to approve the plans.

The application is proposing to convert the bar into two flats with internal and external alterations being carried out.

In the report that went before local members the council's planning service outlined that the proposal complies with the relevant policies as the change of use and the alterations to the property are acceptable in principle and would not significantly detract from the character of the building and conservation area.

The layout plans for how the two flats will look.
The layout plans for how the two flats will look.

However, during that meeting Banff and District councillor Glen Reynolds put forward an amendment to delay plans to change the pub until the integrated impact assessment was carried out.

This was backed by all councillors at the meeting in a vote, with the exception of fellow ward member Michael Roy.

Councillor Reynolds said: "The pub is a vital site of historic interest and a tourism facility. This is evident by the national and international coverage of its closure.

"To lose this pub would be to lose a jewel in the crown along the north-east coast. We'd be losing a community resource at a time we need to enhance community activity.

"We need to assess the pub's economic viability with an economic impact assessment."

He was seconded by Banff and District councillor John Cox.

Councillor Roy backed the motion to allow the plans to go ahead and said: "It has been an extremely popular and vibrant attraction in Banff in the past, but the current owners feel it's no longer viable and have developed a plan for the building.

"Unfortunately, that means it closes as a pub and I regret that – but I don't think it's a decision we can influence.

"We shouldn't be directing him (Mr Wood) with what he does with his own property."

In the report that will go before councillors on Tuesday, from planning officer Martin Walker, it outlines an integrated impact assessment for the proposal was neither necessary nor appropriate.

It says: "As per the request of members at the committee in November, officers sought to carry out an integrated impact assessment for the proposal, specifically with regard to the potential impact on the economic health and wellbeing of other businesses in the town.

"The conclusion of officers is that as the premises is not within the defined town centre area an assessment cannot be carried out on that basis. Furthermore there are no equalities issues to consider.

"Accordingly the view of officers is that an integrated impact assessment is neither necessary nor appropriate in this instance."

It added that because of this the recommendation to grant remains unchanged.

The council received six objections from the public to the plans whose issues included that the building should remain as a business as it would make it more likely to attract visitors to the town and help the local community with regards to jobs.

It was also highlighted that the listed building has historic importance and keeping it as a pub would retain its heritage for the future.

Furthermore it was pointed out the bar is a tourist attraction due to being featured in Local Hero and its setting on the mouth of the River Deveron with its wildlife attractions and recreational opportunities.

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