Aberdeen golf boss on garden putting row

A golf entrepreneur fears he will be left £6,000 out of pocket after starting work on a putting green in his front garden without planning permission.

David Harris has been running Bonnie Wee Golf for about 20 years, offering “luxury” tours of Scotland’s courses to fanatics from far and wide.

A few years ago he bought a new house on Aberdeen’s Devonshire Road, and recently set about revamping the front garden.

However, his neighbors were appalled by the work – and more than a dozens have written to the council calling for it to be undone.

David Harris at Bonnie Wee Golf, which used to be based on Little Belmont Street but is now on Albert Street. Picture by Jim Irvine.

How did David Harris get here?

David set up Bonnie Wee Golf when he was just 23, after becoming inspired while caddying for American tourists.

The businessman bought his west end home in the spring of 2019.

After a few tough years for the tourism industry, he started work on the garden this April when business was back to booming.

Residents on Devonshire Road are up in arms. Picture from Google Maps.

Having seen a few putting greens in other Aberdeen gardens, David “thought it would be good to have one, to do some practice at home” – and to make the most of the south-facing garden.

In addition to the problematic practice space, David began creating a driveway which has also incurred the wrath of Devonshire Road.

So what are the neighbors saying?

So far 15 residents have complained to Aberdeen City Council.

Next door neighbor Gillian Popineau wrote in a bid to “protect the Albyn Place and Rubislaw Conservation Area”.

She says the new driveway would “not preserve the local architectural heritage of Devonshire Road”.

She warned that approving the plans “could set a precedent for applications by other residents and destroy the appearance of the conservation area”.

This is how the garden has been left looking this summer.

David Ord added: “I feel the faux grass putting green is also not in keeping with the spirit and style of this conservation area.”

Kevin Parker said: “The vast majority of the gardens along Devonshire Road are well maintained with plants, grass and are home to insects and other small creatures – exactly what a garden should be, not a tacky plastic putting green.”

Although branding the proposed putting green “bad taste”, John Clunas said his real issue was with the driveway…

He said it would “create a hideous precedent and make a bad parking situation even worse”.

David might have to come up with another plan for the garden.

How did it all go wrong?

David says this all began when he applied for a drop kerb, as part of plans to create the disputed driveway.

He was thinking ahead for when he will need to charge an electric vehicle.

David Harris demonstrating his swing in the center of Aberdeen in 2019. Picture by Jim Irvine

Approving that application, the local authority sent an email with a list of driveway “do’s and don’ts”.

It took this as the go-ahead and was gobsmacked this spring when a stern-faced council officer appeared at his door…

The planning enforcer brought the project to a sudden halt – leaving David’s garden in a state of upheaval for months.

David Harris: ‘We weren’t trying to cheat the system’

David added: “We were not trying to hide anything, the front garden is there for all to see.

“We weren’t trying to cut corners or cheat the system, we tried to follow the rules.

“So there was a bit of money spent, about £6,000, before our neighbors thought they would complain..”

This is what would be a putting green by now, had David’s plans worked out.

David continued: “But it’s really the council that decides what the rules are, not the residents of Devonshire Road.

“We weren’t expecting all the objections.

“It’s fine for people to have their say but when they try and be offensive, well… We won’t let that bother us.

That’s their issue.”

‘Waste of money’ bemoaned

As for his chances of success, David is philosophical…

“If we are told to do it [undo the work] then we will do it.

“It doesn’t look likely, at this stage, that we will get to keep it.

“It will have been a waste of £6,000 though, and that’s a substantial sum of money.”

What do you think about it?

Our Facebook followers shared a variety of views after our Planning Ahead round-up detailed the row.

Nat Theresa accused the objectors of “plain old snobbery”.

Joanne Rust cast scorn on those “moaning about a tiny putting green in someone else’s garden”.

David Harris, Bonnie Wee Golf tour specialist Cam Howe and director Stew Morrison display their Old Tom
Morris Trail commemorative coins at St Andrews. Supplied by Marbles Corporate Communication Consultancy/ (Credit Michal Wachucik, Abermedia)

Denise Innes Galea added: “Maybe the neighbors need to get a life and mind their own business, he’s not installing a 50ft inflatable light up disco Santa!”

And Chris Kerr said: “So it’s going to be some grass with a couple holes and wee flags. Nae is exactly going to be hosting the Open.”

Bob Wilson said: “You can pick your friends but not your neighbours.”

Angus Laurie was less forgiving, saying it’s “literally criminal what this guy has done”.

He added: “Must be reinstated to what it was before.”

David Harris went from being a caddy to managing director of his own golfing firm. Picture by Jim Irvine

Do you think the plans should be allowed to proceed? Let us know in our comments section below

What happens next?

People will be able to lodge letters of objection – or support – here up until Oct 7.

As the application has generated so many complaints, it will be debated by Aberdeen City Council’s planning committee.

It will be left to councilors to decide, with that expected in mid-November.

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[Aberdeen golf boss on garden putting row]


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