Locally-led partnership clears first stage of ambitious Sunnyside Hospital redevelopment project

© Andy Thompson

Developers have successfully cleared the first hurdle in the redevelopment bid for the site of Scotland’s oldest asylum which could eventually be the setting for more than 500 new homes.

At a meeting in Forfar, Angus development standards committee councillors unanimously backed the conditional approval recommendation for permission in principle relating to the massive Sunnyside Hospital project to the north of Montrose.

The green-light was described as a “positive, albeit baby step forward” for the multi-million pound project, but with an early marker put down in some quarters over the hope that the scheme will see as many of Sunnyside’s listed buildings as possible retained.

SNP councillor Bill Duff, who sits on the committee, was enthusiastic in his welcome for a plan he described as “a complex project not without significant challenges.”

“I very much welcome this application. I note phasing plans allowing 265 houses to 2026, which complies with the local plan .

“Personally, I am comfortable with the developer’s target of 500 houses, as this will be a long-term project and the population growth will be gradual and dictated by market demand.”

Arbroath West and Letham Liberal Democrat Richard Moore expressed the hope applicant Sunnyside Estate would retain and re-use all 12 of the listed buildings on the expansive site but councillors heard an application for the demolition of the former Booth House nurses’ home has already been lodged and will be considered separately later.

Mr Duff added: “I would sincerely hope we remain pragmatic about this aspect; the project must be viable for the developer and I trust Historic Environment Scotland can agree a common sense compromise with the developer and Angus Council.”

The empty Sunnyside buildings have become a magnet for unwanted visitors, especially so-called ghosthunters, and one of the main figures in the redevelopment project delivered a timely Halloween warning for people to stay away from the site.

Jamie Pert, joint managing director of local firm Pert Bruce Construction, one of the partners in the project company, said the company was keen to progress development and avoid a “Strathmartine situation”, in reference to the former hospital on the outskirts of Dundee which has been blighted by vandalism and fireraising over a number of years

“Approval of permission in principle is just the start of the journey, but the first step in this unique opportunity,” he said.

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