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St Andrews Bay Development (Kingask)
Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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Row over £50m St Andrews golf plan

James Rougvie, The Scotsman, 30 January 1999

A controversial £50 million leisure development outside the home of golf was last night at the centre of a furious dispute over planning procedures.

Conservation bodies and local groups fear that a planned hotel - which would be one of the biggest in Scotland - and two golf courses a mile and a half south of St Andrews will pave the way for a further dozen golf developments and turn the town into a “golfing Disneyland”.

The St Andrews Bay Development Company’s proposals for the Kingask site were put on hold earlier this month when councillors asked them to reconsider the size of the hotel - which has escalated from an original 50 beds to 204 - and asked for more time to evaluate the traffic impact on St Andrews.

Locals have now accused the development company of attempting to circumvent the planning process by asking Fife Council to take the final decision out of the hands of local councillors.

At the time of the Fife Regional Council’s reorganisation, planning matters were generally delegated to local councillors in the three former district council areas that made up the regional body.

The Kingask proposal was being debated by the east area planning committee, made up overwhelmingly of Liberal Democrats.

The company has now asked Fife Council to call in the application to be decided on by the council’s strategic development committee, where members of the Labour administration are in the majority.

Frank Riddell, a member of St Andrews Community Council, which has consistently opposed the development project, said yesterday: “This shows a blatant disregard for the currently accepted planning procedures in Fife.

“If this is called in it would bring the planning procedures into disrepute.”

It is understood that senior Fife officials and many councillors are enthusiastic about the proposal, the single biggest investment in north-east Fife, which promises 300 new jobs and the injection of £14 million annually into the local economy.

The council’s convener, John MacDougall, caused controversy at the start of the affair when he attended a champagne reception hosted by the project’s proponents, and there have been accusations that the developers orchestrated support for the scheme by distributing carefully worded questionnaires in St Andrews.

At the last meeting of the east area planning committee, however, councillors were told that Kingask traffic would “compromise” the St Andrews traffic management scheme, which is designed to reduce the number of cars in the town.

There were suggestions of 70-car tailbacks at peak periods in a town built to accommodate pilgrim traffic. Already, some of the medieval buildings have become uninhabitable because of the vibration caused by vehicles.

Dr Riddell said: “There are at least another 12 courses being planned around the town and it is going to turn St Andrews into a golfing theme park, a Disneyland which cannot support the traffic or the extra housing which will be required.”

Glen Pride, of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, said his organisation had been against the scale of the plan from the start. “It is monstrously bigger than ever it was envisaged and if this goes ahead we will be inundated with golf courses all around St Andrews.”

Ian Goudie, the planning convener of the community council, paid there was anger at the company’s intention to appeal to what they believed would be an “easier jury”.

He believed the councillors in central and west Fife would take a one-dimensional view of the application and look at it in terms of jobs only, rather than the environmental damage which would be done to the town.

A spokesman for the development company denied that there had been any attempt to circumvent the planning process.

He said the proposals had strategic dimensions which had implications for the whole region, and therefore required a decision from the strategic development committee.

“The development will have no significant impact on the setting of St Andrews and the company supports moves to improve the environment of St Andrews.

“The company has no wish to inflame public opinion. On tile contrary, it has tried to ‘be sensitive to legitimate public concern and the project continues to have considerable support within and around St Andrews and the wider community in Fife.”

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