St Andrews Bay Development (Kingask)
Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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Legal probe into firm's approach to councillors
The Courier, 18 January 1999
Legal officials of Fife Council are to be asked to
investigate an approach made to members of Fife Councils east area
development committee in advance of tomorrows crucial discussion on the
multi-million pound development at Kingask, near St Andrews.
This emerged yesterday when the chairwoman of the
committee, St Andrews councillor Frances Melville, said there was great
concern among councillors over the a letter sent by representatives of St
Andrews Bay Development Ltd.
It is claimed that a request for a meeting at this time is
a breach of well-established procedures governing the canvassing of
Last night, a spokesman from the firm involved, top PR firm
PS Communication Consultants (PSCC), strongly defended the move, which was said
to be not unusual.
Any meeting could have taken place in the presence of a
council official, and would be designed only to make sure that a decision was
taken on the basis of all the facts.
Mrs Melville revealed that the areas law and
administration officer, Morag Wallace, was to be asked to look into the
contents of the letter from PSCC, which lists among its activities media
relations, lobbying, campaigning and crisis management.
Members of the planning committee, together with St Andrews
councillor Jane Ann Liston who is not on the committee, received a letter from
the firms Mr Denis Sullivan.
In the letter, sent on January 11, Mr Sullivan said his
firm had been asked by St Andrews Bay Development to advise on the
I am aware that the area planning manager is issuing
his report on the project on Tuesday of this week, and I should be most
grateful if you could find time thereafter to speak with me later this week, or
at the weekend, but in any event before the meeting of the area development
committee on January 19.
Mr Sullivan said he keenly appreciated the pressures on
councillors time but hoped he would be able to meet Mrs Melville at her
home, or nearby.
He said that, for convenience, it might be suitable to meet
at the same time with the other St Andrews councillors, and also perhaps
Councillor Jane Hunter-Blair.
Coucillor Melville said yesterday she had rejected any
suggestion that there should be a meeting with representatives of the
applicants only days before the discussion at committee.
I am extremely concerned about this, and I know that
a number of my colleagues feel the same way, she said.
We have to operate to very strict guidelines which
are well known to councillors, officials and applicants alike.
It has been made very clear to us, from the day this
application was first mentioned, that we had to be meticulous in the way we
dealt with it. No discussions with applicants of developers should ever take
place unless a council official is present.
Committee chairman Peter Douglas said he had no intention
of having any contact with Mr Sullivan. The only question which could possibly
be asked at this stage related to any additional information the committee did
not possess. A council official, he said, would have to be present.
I certainly would not meet with them in private, and
I would very strongly advise my members not to have anything to do with
Anthony Garrett, a committee member and former district
council planning chairman, said he was not aware of any law which ruled out an
approach to members, but there would certainly never be any meeting without a
council official present. I will not be responding to this letter,
Newport and Wormit member Edith McFee said she had been
extremely annoyed to receive the letter, which she felt was completely out of
place in advance of the meeting.
There are guidelines for this type of thing,
The only Independent member of the committee, East Neuk
councillor Jimmy Braid, said he had not received the letter but would
have ignored it anyway. Such a letter, he said, was completely out of
Last night, Mr Sullivan said, on behalf of PSCC, that St
Andrews Bay Development had been so concerned about misrepresentations
and the extravagance of the criticism about its proposed development at
Kingask that it had sought advice.
PSCC, it was said, spoke about the project to a wide range
of people and organisations who might be affected by the development, to enable
them to come to a balanced view of it.
It was significant, said Mr Sullivan, that there had been
more than 800 individual expressions of support for the project.
In the course of its consultations, PSCC wrote to
members of the area development committee. The letter indicated there would be
no contact until after the Fife Council officials had made a recommendation to
Over a lengthy period of time SABDL and its advisers
have met with councillors to seek their advice on the development.
In conversation with Mrs Melville, he said, issues relating
to traffic and sewage were raised.
Mr Sullivan said it was not unusual for councillors to
speak to developers, and he had made it clear to Mrs Melville he would be
prepared to discuss the issues along with an official.
He was anxious that any questions which remained unanswered
could be dealt with.
A lot of people, he said, had been prepared to
misrepresent, exaggerate and distort the facts.
I have to make sure that, when they sit down on
Tuesday to make that decision, they do it based on the facts.
Prospective Conservative candidate for North East Fife, Ted
Brocklebank, urged councillors to reject the Kingask proposals.
What I am totally opposed to is the scale of the St
Andrews Bay Development complex and its inevitable effect on the skyline
overlooking St Andrews. If this application succeeds, a horse and cart has been
driven through the Green Belt concept before it is even off the ground," he
said. more Planning Phase
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