Glasgow & West Scotland

Ministers reject plans for £450m Loudoun Castle resort

Loudon Castle Image copyright Tom Morisson
Image caption The site in East Ayrshire has lain dormant since the closure of Loudoun Castle Theme Park in 2010

Ministers have backed the rejection of plans to turn a former East Ayrshire theme park into a £450m holiday resort.

Developers hoped to build 450 luxury lodges, an indoor water park and a leisure complex on the dormant Loudoun Castle site.

However, the plans - unveiled in 2014 - were rejected by East Ayrshire Council, a move the Scottish government reporter has supported.

The government agreed the plans were "unacceptable" in their present form.

Ministers also backed the rejection of a partial expenses claim made by Loudoun Woods Homes Ltd against East Ayrshire Council.

Loudoun revival

The 610-acre site site near Galston has lain in disuse since the closure of Loudoun Castle Theme Park in 2010.

The Loudon Castle Project was led by private investment firm EIF.

It proposed to build 1,025 new homes "to enable the restoration" of the derelict buildings.

The plans outlined how the castle itself would be stabilised and the resort would include 12 glamping pitches, a lake, a retail plaza with restaurants and a new Loudoun distillery.

The Loudoun Castle Project said it anticipated about 1,000 jobs would be created in the construction phase, with a further 1,500 long-term jobs in leisure and retail.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Chairman of the Loudoun Castle Project David Mace

However, the Scottish government reporter recommended that planning permission in principle should be refused.

Ministers said on Wednesday they agreed with the reporter's recommendation.

Why did the government back the council's rejection?

In a decision letter to planning consultants RPS Group, who are part of the Loudoun Castle Project consortium, ministers said the development did not meet East Ayrshire's planning policy.

It said there was "no certainty" that the housing plans would allow for the castle itself to be safely restored.

The letter also said that proposed housing would have an "adverse impact" on the Loudoun Castle grounds.

It concluded: "Furthermore, the scale of the proposed enabling housing development, and lack of suitable masterplanning mean in their present form the proposals would not result in a well planned sustainable community."

'Alternative development'

East Ayrshire Council welcomed the decision, saying it aligned with its own views, and that developers could bring forward alternative plans.

Michael Keane, head of planning and economic development, said: "Our position has always been that priority should be given to the development of the tourist attraction supplemented with the minimum enabling housing development to facilitate the restoration of the castle facade.

"However, as the ministers have confirmed, the applicant proposals did not deliver this strategy and their proposals separated the tourism development from the housing development, giving rise to uncertainty over the minimum enabling housing development necessary to make the castle safe, while the housing development promoted an adverse impact on the Loudoun Castle Historic Garden and Designed Landscape. 

"It is now for the applicants to consider their position and decide if they wish to bring forward proposals for an alternative development scheme for the site which would align with the ministers decision and the council's aspirations for the site."

Developers can appeal against the decision at the Court of Session within six weeks.

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