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“It’s not one stage too far, it’s ten”: 250-house Letham Grange expansion bid comes under early fire at Angus planning committee

Letham Grange was a thriving hotel and golf resort.
Letham Grange was a thriving hotel and golf resort.

An early marker has been laid down for planners to take a “long, hard look” at proposals for a massive expansion of the Letham Grange estate in Angus.

Residents living at the one-time luxury hotel and golf resort have been stunned by a planning bid which could see more than 250 new homes built there.

There are currently around 140 houses on the sprawling estate, a few miles north of Arbroath.

Indicative plans of the new development.

They were built at the time of the conversion of the mansion house into a hotel, complete with curling rink and two highly-rated golf courses.

The hotel closed a decade ago and has fallen into increasing disrepair.

Golfers kept the courses running before the club was disbanded in late 2019.

Letham Grange was at the centre of a 15-year legal fight which eventually returned ownership to the Taiwanese Liu family.

Hong Kong-registered Smartwill Investment has lodged the planning bid and is understood to be part of the Liu family business portfolio.

The “bombshell” proposal would see 190 private houses, 71 affordable homes and eight holiday lodges added to the estate.

Many would be built on what was the Letham Grange New Course, with a redesign of the Old Course once dubbed the ‘Augusta of the North’ in the pipeline.

Plans at this stage are indicative but have already been branded “profit driven” by the Friends of Letham Grange residents’ group.

The opening stage of the planning process saw a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) go before Angus development standards councillors on Tuesday.

School and traffic fears

Early concerns have emerged around the scale of housing and the pressure it would put on local roads and the village school serving the estate.

The district’s longest serving councillor, Arbroath member Alex King said: “I wasn’t even a councillor when the initial development of Letham Grange took place.

“But I know a lot of discussion took place to ensure there wasn’t over development of housing.

If we allow this, we’re going to construct a new village the same size as Friockheim with no shops and no facilities.

Arbroath councillor Alex King.

“We’re seeing a proposal to completely cover the second golf course with houses.

“It’s almost going to increase the housing by a factor of three.”

He also flagged fears over the impact on Colliston primary school and the potential of hundreds of cars being added to local roads.

The dilapidated former Letham Grange hotel.

“Personally I think this is a development not just one stage too far, but ten stages too far,” said Mr King.

“It’s wholly driven by commercialism and not the ethos that allowed Letham Grange to be set up.

“If we allow this, we’re going to construct a new village the same size as Friockheim with no shops and no facilities.

“I think this needs a very long, hard look as to whether it can be even remotely considered to comply with the development plan.

“The development plan is for infill houses, not an extra 250.”

Flooding risk

Letham Grange is a flooding hotspot and Arbroath councillor Brenda Durno said no extra development should go ahead until completion of a multi-million pound protection scheme currently under construction.

Brothock Meadows is included in the £12 million Arbroath flood prevention project which will take around 18 months to complete.

“At the moment householders have real problems getting mortgages for properties at Letham Grange because of the flooding situation.

“We’re working on the flood defences in the area.

“I feel those should really be finished before any application comes back for this development,” she said.

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