When the developers FM Developments went into administration in 2009, it put in jeopardy a huge development scheme which was to fund the restoration of the historic Ury House. The size of Ury House meant that any scheme was going to have to be ambitious to provide sufficient funding and this one involved the building of 230 homes and the creation of a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. The developers had been praised for consulting with local residents and had the full support of the council for bringing jobs and no small measure of glamour to Stonehaven. Now, a year after the collapse, it’s still not clear if the scheme will proceed at all, leaving the spectacular ruins of Ury House at further risk of decline.
The first house had burnt down in 1645, and the second house was subsequently completely rebuilt as the Ury House we see today in 1855 for Alexander Baird in a fine Elizabethan style by the architect John Baird. Baird was one of the most successful of the architects working at this time even if he rarely followed fashion. His work at Ury was a continuation of the style of Wilkins and Burns they had developed 40 years earlier but was of a high quality which is still visible even today in the shell of the house. As a first stage of the work of the restoration, extensive scaffolding had been erected around the house in January 2009.
The proposals for redevelopment of the 1,500-acre estate included the conversion of the house into nine townhouses. Unlike in many other cases of ‘enabling development’ where the setting of the house is compromised through the encroachment of the housing, the plan put forward placed the residential estate well to the east of the house, thus protecting it. With the bankruptcy of FM Developments these plans have been thrown into doubt and local planning officers are now working on the assumption that the development will not go ahead – despite local councillors being determined to resurrect the scheme. Unfortunately the danger is now that another, less sympathetic, developer will take on the project but may try to cram more houses in or extend the area of the estate taken for housing. This would be a real shame. Although the ideal but unlikely outcome would be the restoration of the house as a single family home, this project had developed as a good example of enabling development practiced in the right way, with sensitive restoration of the main house, protection of the setting of the house, and productive use of the estate.
More details: ‘Future of Ury mansion site in doubt‘ [The Press and Journal]