THE couple behind plans for a tourism development with glamping pods in Eglinton Park have fired back at objectors - claiming the site can only bring benefits to the surrounding areas and wider North Ayrshire.

Stuart McLean and Susan Pearce own the land next to Eglinton House and the pair want to invest their life savings to create a new glamping site featuring seven 'hobbit huts', as well as their "dream home" alongside an office building, workshop and shower/toilet block.

We reported previously that the owners of the B-listed Eglinton House were concerned their privacy would be "unjustly compromised" if the proposals were to be given the go-ahead.

Joe and Helen Broussard, both aged 74, have lived in the property for more than 40 years and argued that an application of their own - to build a wheelchair-accessible house on their land - was refused because it would have 'detracted from the listed building'. They claimed the proposed glamping pods would be even closer to the home and would "infringe on our privacy".

The proposed development site

The proposed development site

However, Mr McLean said a suitable extension at the Broussard's home was later approved, and in any case, a two-metre-high fence would be installed along the divide between the development and the property, with trees being planted to act as an extra buffer.

He said: "The hobbit huts would have the same amount of visibility of Eglinton House as somebody standing on the road.

"We're not developers, myself and Susan are a normal working couple.

"We don't own a building company, we're not building this to sell it. We're building our dream home in a dream location and starting a glamping business."

More than 30 objections to the plans have been submitted to North Ayrshire Council's planning department so far, along with nine comments in support of the application. The deadline for public submissions is this Friday, August 26.

Mr McLean said: "I can appreciate there might be some apprehension, but these are glamping pods; it's not a holiday park.

"We won't offer entertainment, we won't offer drinks, people will go here to relax and wind down.

"We're talking about investing somewhere in the region of £200,000-£300,000 in materials that will be purchased from local businesses. If our businesses take off we could be employing five people from the local area."

Stuart, a qualified tree surgeon from East Kilbride, said moving to Ayrshire and launching their glamping business has been a long-term ambition for him and Susan.

The pair, who are experienced wild campers, claimed they have already been inundated with expressions of interest from potential visitors to the proposed site, and they are hoping to take advantage of the booming staycation market post-Covid.

Stuart added: "Staycations and glamping, more so now after Covid, is a massive business.

"We've been looking at this for a long time and we're talking about investing our life savings.

"If we get planning permission we want to make a real, good go of this business. It'll bring investment into the local area.

"The pods will be in tune with the environment, they won't be modern, they'll be clad with the trees that we fell.

"We know that there's a massive market for this.

"If we have the seven pods operating, with two people per pod, that's 14 people who are going to be out in Irvine and Kilwinning, looking to buy stuff, looking to get food, or go to local attractions. It can only bring benefits to the environment.

"This is a business that's going to benefit the park and the ecology of that land."

To view the plans in full and comment on the application, search NAC's online planning portal for the reference code 22/00530/PP.