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Fife Structure Plan - Legal Challenge -
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Court case warning to council

Gordon Berry, The Courier, 1 September 2009

Fife Councillors have been warned that a successful Court of Session challenge to the Fife Structure Plan would directly impact on council policy.

The issue has been raised in a briefing note to councillors since the action raised by St Andrews resident Penny Uprichard.

Miss Uprichard has already secured over £30,000 in pledges to help with possible legal costs, and if successful her challenge to the decision of Scottish ministers to approve the plan could result in the whole document being sent back to the council.

Though Miss Uprichard’s action relates mainly to St Andrews housing numbers, it nevertheless challenges the ministers on the entire plan. The plan attracted an unprecedented number of objections, and strong opposition from neighbouring local authorities such as Dundee City Council.

The Courier has obtained a copy of the briefing note, in which planner Dave Wardrope states that the challenge has been made under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997.

It is claimed in the legal papers that Scottish ministers have failed to give a proper, adequate and intelligible reason for not modifying the finalised structure plan in line with specific objections received.

Mr Wardrope said that in essence the appeal is based on case law, which requires ministers to provide reasons for not modifying the finalised structure plan.

“It is being argued on Miss Uprichard’s behalf that the reasons should be intelligible and deal with any substantial points that have been raised.

“Miss Uprichard’s solicitor argues that the Scottish ministers’ explanation in rejecting her objection does not answer the clear and reasoned points of objection put forward in her letter of objection,” he said.

The official also said that Miss Uprichard had sought an interim suspension of the Fife Structure Plan.

“There are, of course, resource implications associated with the legal challenge in terms of officer time and costs associated with the necessary legal representation for the council. Should the challenge to the structure plan be successful, there would also be direct policy impacts.

“It is essential that the council has up to date local plans in place upon which planning decisions can be based.

“Along with the draft Kirkcaldy and Mid Fife and Dunfermline and West Fife local plans, the St Andrews and East Fife Local Plan has been timetabled to follow the approval of the Fife Structure Plan to ensure that Fife maintains up-to-date development plan coverage for the area.”

The official said that as a result of this legal challenge to the Scottish Ministers’ approval of the finalised Fife Structure Plan, the council must consider the potential for the challenge on parts of the structure plan being successful and the extent of the impact of such a challenge on the local plan process.

“In view of the possible consequences to the council, and the ongoing regeneration of Fife’s communities and of a suspension being granted, the council has sought legal advice and has entered appearance in the appeal process,” the note states.

“It is unlikely that the appeal will be heard before autumn 2010, with any subsequent decision being pronounced in early 2011,” said Mr Wardrope.

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