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Country’s biggest housing project in disarray

Opponents line up to condemn plan to build 35,000 homes in Fife

Rob Edwards, Environment Editor, Sunday Herald, 19 April 2009

Scotland's biggest and most hated house building project is in a state of disarray after coming under near universal attack. Proposals to build more than 35,000 new homes across Fife over the next 20 years are being opposed by Edinburgh and Dundee councils, the government's conservation agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, and dozens of community groups. Ministers are under mounting pressure to rethink the controversial project.

The only groups backing the plans are Fife Council, the local authority behind the project, and private house-builders, who argue that new houses are needed to meet demand and to kick-start economic growth.

The latest version of Fife Council's housing plan is now with Scottish ministers, waiting for a final decision. Objectors fear it will get the go-ahead.

The scheme envisages a total of 35,200 new houses, mostly to be built around existing towns. Most homes are planned for west and central Fife, with smaller allocations near Cupar and St Andrews.

But in a recent letter to the Scottish Government, Dundee City Council has expressed its "extreme disappointment" at the plans.

Planned new housing around Cupar they say "will inevitably draw demand from the greater Dundee housing market".

Dundee also argued that the 20-year span of Fife's plan was "inappropriate" because it would "constrain and undermine the ability of both Dundee and Edinburgh authorities to formulate appropriate strategies".

Edinburgh City Council originally objected to Fife's plan because it was worried about the increase in commuter traffic on the Firth of Forth. It has not altered its view.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has also written to ministers, strongly criticising Fife's plan. "We remain concerned that many of the large allocations of land for development have been identified without regard for the capacity of the natural heritage to accommodate such scale of development," said Niall Corbet, SNH's Forth and Borders operations manager.

Penny Uprichard, an executive member of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, said the plan to build 1000 new houses in St Andrews, where she lives, would do "enormous damage" to the town's historic landscape.

"There is no sign that the current economic situation, or the huge number of objectors, have had any impact on the apparent intent of Fife Council and the Scottish Executive to cover Fife's landscape in concrete."

Over 2500 objections have been lodged against the council's structure plan, with a further 200 submitted since the plan was modified by the Scottish Government in December.

But the plan was defended by the chairman of Fife's planning committee, councillor John Beare. "It is fundamental that we can provide good quality, affordable housing," he told the Sunday Herald. "The strategy and proposals contained within the plan, together with existing assets, will make Fife a location of first choice in east central Scotland."

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "Ministers are currently considering objections to the proposed modifications to the plan.

"However, at no point will this mean that ministers have given consent for any specific housing developments. Any new development proposals would still have to be determined through the normal planning process."

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