Craibstone Estate on Green Belt gets 1000 houses

Craibstone Estate

If you think that this is a housing development too far send your objections to Aberdeen Local Development Plan for Craibstone:

Aberdeen City Council,
Planning and Sustainable Development,
8th floor, St Nicholas House
Broad Street,
AB10 1GY

Or email:

Objections to be in by December 17th.


Craibstone is a 750 acre estate on the outskirts of Aberdeen and is home to the Scottish Agricultural College Aberdeen campus. It occupies a beautiful site just off the A96 Aberdeen – Inverness road and includes an arboretum, walled gardens, woodlands and farmland and so is an important area that local people can use for cycling, walking, running and wildlife observing.

The Craibstone land is currently designated as green belt but this means nothing when a council is determined to have it built on. The Council intends to amend the local city and shire structure plan to accommodate 1000 houses within a defined area.

According to the Council’s report on the Craibstone proposal none of the existing buildings and their environments are protected – Sunnybrae Croft, Craibstone House grounds, Gough Burn, Sunnybank and Craibstone . Only St Mary’s Chapel Well is listed but Craibstone is an historic area as well as being an important element of the areas green belt.

As the Council report notes:

‘Natural Conservation – This site is divided by the A96 dual carriageway. The site to the north of the A96 is mostly agricultural – Improved Grassland and Arable. However, there are smaller areas of Other Broadleaved Woodland and Mixed Woodland. There are also some Wych Elm present which is a North East Local Biodiversity Action Plan Species. The larger part of the site to the south of the A96 also contains a lot of agricultural land – Improved Grassland and Arable. However, there is significantly more woodland of various types – well established Broadleaved Woodland, Mixed Woodland and Coniferous Woodland, as well as an arboretum with a range of native and non-native species. The woodland along the Gough Burn and in the centre of the southern site is part of the ancient woodland overlay. There is extensive woodland cover on the southern site and along the Green Burn in the northern area and at the Mill of Craibstone. There are records of Red Squirrel, Badger and a variety of birds that are listed on the Scottish Biodiversity List.’

Sounds great, doesn’t it – so why is Aberdeen City Council so desperate to obliterate it?

Anyone with any knowledge of Aberdeen City Council will be aware of its appalling reputation as the destroyer of both built and natural environments in its care. This lamentable bunch has now targeted Craibstone.

Currently a tranquil oasis for people north and west of the city it is due to have its buildings flattened, trees and shrubs felled and uprooted and fertile land dug up and replaced with tons of concrete when a proposal for a massive development of 1000 houses goes through in December unless it can be stopped by objections to the Council’s planning department.

The Council appears happy to accept a housing development at Craibstone and it is widely believed that the strategic planners have through informal talks already agreed the principle. Perhaps they should instead have conducted an environmental risk assessment prior to agreeing to the wholesale destruction of the area.

Craibstone’s magnificent trees are not protected by preservation orders and the blanket changes proposed will put all of them at risk. Craibstone’s rich wildlife includes fox, deer, badgers, red squirrels and countless birds of prey such as hawks and owls. Their habitats will be wiped out when building of the 1000 houses begins.

Part of this area has already been purchased for the AWPR so the intended 1000 houses will be packed together in a high density development. Very green.

Craibstone’s Past

The name Craibstone goes back to the 14th century when a John Crab was captured by Robert the Bruce’s men and escaped death in return for his skills as an engineer. Proving his worth, Crab was rewarded with various plots of land including Auchteronny, later Craibs Town corrupted to Craibstone.

Notable families who occupied the land since have included the Gordons and the Sandilands. Lady Sandilands was prominent in the 1715 rising. In the 19th century the lands were given in trust to the Scott Hospital in Huntly. Finally in 1913 Craibstone became home to the North College of Agriculture.

While the estate and its buildings have been completely transformed over the decades since the inauguration of the College of Agriculture, the coat-of-arms of the Sandilands family is extant.

But back to the future

In 2006 Cala Homes launched a consultation on its proposed master plan for an urban village in the estate. At that point the area was not included in the Local Plan.

Cala was encouraged in its proposal by the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) which has determinedly run down its farming facility in the fertile north-east of Scotland, one of the best farming areas in the whole of the UK, in its drive towards concentrating its activities in Edinburgh. The former farmland is, however, worth a great deal of money to the SAC for development of housing.

In its original proposal, Cala recognised the assets of the estate – its woodlands and open and the ‘talk’ was about creating a ‘village’. The village was to be accommodated within the natural site, ‘retaining and enhancing the woodland’ and recognising Craibstone’s ‘unique environmental quality and distinct identity’. The intention was to integrate open spaces and parkland within the development and to the ‘wider green space network.’ The Cala document made several references to nature and small-scale “‘Green Field’ Buffer to A96’”; “Potential ‘Village Green’”; “‘Village Core’ Parkland Space”; ‘Sutton Family Walled Garden’; Location for Formal Sports and Play Facilities’.

Object by emailing:

But time and developers do not stand still. The latest proposal no longer refers to an urban village development. Now the plan is to go BIG.

As the Aberdeen Local Development Plan document reports there are issues with this proposal which may cause difficulties but possibly none which will hold up its approval.

‘Noise issues from the airport and surrounding roads would have to be addressed as would flooding issues.’

Ah flooding. How problematic is this becoming in Scotland? Think concrete as you consider this.

What is the flood risk for this development? ‘Flood risk – the Greenburn which runs along the northern border of the southern site and through the middle of the northern site is shown to be at risk of flooding on the SEPA flood map.’

And –

‘Drainage – Proposer indicates poor drainage at the burn and culvert adjacent to the A96 Dyce Drive roundabout. This would however, only affect a very small part of the site.’

So the land is not perfect for an urban development but there are immense profits to be made from this site so minor difficulties for potential home owners in the area are unlikely to stop this plan going ahead.

Potential house buyers could find transport links into the city a problem. Isn’t encouraging greater use of public transport something the Council should be doing?

‘Accessibility – No frequent service buses within walking distance’.

Ironically given Craibstone’s importance as a rural retreat for active people – isn’t this another area of personal responsibility that the Council should be encouraging? – the new, concreted over Craibstone will not be close to any health or recreation facilities.

‘No facilities within walking distance • Nearest District Centre is Danestone – 4797m • Nearest Neighbourhood Centre is Sclattie Park – 2558m • Newhills Primary – 2895m • Bankhead Academy 2448 (the new academy will be a similar distance away)’

Then there’s that old chestnut of the Aberdeen bypass.

‘Land Use Conflict . 1 The AWPR runs through the western part of the southern site. Noise could be a major issue, with the WPR and its Junction to the west, the A96 splitting the sites and noise from the airport.’ Oh, and remember the proposal is now for a high density proposal of 1000 houses.

If you think Aberdeen City Council has caused enough damage and a line should be drawn at destroying more green belt and destroying this beautiful natural oasis for plants, animals and people then write to:

Aberdeen City Council
Planning and Sustainable Development
8th floor, St Nicholas House
Broad Street
Aberdeen AB10 1GY

Or email:

9 Responses to “Craibstone Estate on Green Belt gets 1000 houses”

  1. Unfortunately the influence of Agriculture in the UK as a whole has diminished greatly over the years. When I was young(er) all the farms around me employed a minimum of 2 people as well as the farmer himself. Nowadays it is not unusual for the farm (if it hasn’t been swallowed up by one of it’s neighbours) to just have the farmer himself working the farm. With less people working the land there is a smaller pool of people going to the Agricultural Colleges and I reckon the SAC would struggle to do anything about it. It is also unfortunate that they have to make or at least not lose too much money. When you have a reduction of students there is little other choice but to sell off stuff to try and keep the business going in the hope that things pick up.
    Having said all that it would be a shame if this was allowed to go ahead. The infrastructure in the area can not cope with what is there now – never mind another 1,000 houses, plus of course all that other building of offices at the Airport. There are always lots of promises about building the necessary infrastructure before planning is granted but it always seems to be conveniently overlooked when the house building is done.

    • I agree how much farming has been changing over the past few decades and this has inevitably had an impact on the SAC but I think there’s more to the erosion of Craibstone than this. The north and northeast of Scotland where agriculture is so important should be able to sustain a considerable point of learning such as the SAC. Moving most of it south is regrettable. It would be interesting to know why this came about.

      I also agree that developers will promise anything to get their plans through but then agreed terms slip. We see it all the time.

      I guess money talks and local authorities are notorious for getting things wrong.

      Thanks for reading the blog.

  2. you seem to know a lot about the craibstone estate, do you think there will be a campaign like that of 2003? I personally feel sorry for the students who stand to lose not only a brilliant estate, but also the majority of their halls rooms and facilities.

    • I feel strongly that the SAC and its importance to the northeast and the northeast’s importance to agriculture in Scotland has been squandered by SAC management over the years and that the benefit to Scottish society has taken second place to the drive for short-term cash savings.

      Craibstone is a beautiful estate and given the near total failure of Aberdeen councils to take any interest or pride whatsoever over the quality of environment preferring build them cheap housing developments despite the negative impacts these have on people by eroding the aesthetic importance of surroundings I imagine students have much to worry about.

      In ten years from now will there be a campus at Craibstone? Perhaps you should hope that the economic downturn continues – that will be the only thing preventing the loss of Craibstone.

  3. The Craibstone Estate is beautiful tranquil and a small paradise as it is even so near to the city. Please do not turn it into a ruin with these concrete blocks- leave this little paradise as it is go build your concrete blocks somewhere more appropriate!

  4. I hate to see proposed developments like this, its so sad that councils across the country seem to think nothing of trashing the landscape and history that’s around us.

    • I agree with you but to be fair to the council the Scottish Agricultural College is largely to blame for its shameful policy of running down its Aberdeen site and has been closing farms there for years, converting some of it into a golf course – and slavering at the prospect of a lucrative housing deal.


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