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St Andrews Bay Development (Kingask)
Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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Kingask meeting 'test of policy'

The Courier, 1 February 1999

Councillors will meet in Glenrothes today to take part in a discussion which has been described as a test for Fife Council’s policy on decentralisation.

Members of the authority’s strategic development committee will have to decide on a request - bitterly opposed by some bodies in St Andrews - for the decision-making process on £50 million development proposals to be taken out of the hands of East Area members and decided at the centre of the council.

The developers behind the Kingask hotel, conference, golf and leisure complex planned for a coastal site to the east of St Andrews have asked the council to call in the application for determination at the centre because of strategic issues involved and the Fife-wide implications.

The move is being opposed locally because of fears that years of work on a strategic study and a transportation plan for the medieval town of St Andrews would be sacrificed because of the spectacular investment involved.

Powerful views have been put forward both for and against the scheme, which has been described as the biggest single investment ever to come the way of North East Fife.

The developers have mustered support from the council’s own economic development department and from Fife Enterprise. The Kingdom of Fife Tourist Board has welcomed the possibility of this type of investment for Fife, but its comments are general, not site specific.

Local opposition has come from the two most affected community councils, and the local preservation trust. In addition, several national bodies, such as the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland and the Scottish Civic Trust, have all objected strongly to the plans.

The request for a call-in has come as East Area councillors are midway through their decision-making process on the application.

They decided to seek more information on claims from one of the council’s own engineers that there would be conflict with the recently-adopted St Andrews Transportation Plan, which was aimed at protecting and improving the quality of the town centre environment.

East Area councillors were told there could be up to 750 extra vehicles every day in the town, leading to problems of congestion.

Apart from the traffic issue, the committee decided to ask the developers to look again at the scale and location of the hotel and conference complex, and to consider moving it back to a steading which was the subject of the original outline consent for a much smaller development.

Whatever councillors decide today, the debate will be far from over. There are already rumblings to the effect that the only place the issue can now properly be decided is at Scottish Office level.

Objectors have pointed to the fact that Fife Council convener John MacDougall, along with the council’s economic development department, hosted a reception at which the plans were unveiled to the public. It is being claimed that this raised questions over whether the council’s administration had already nailed its colours to the mast.

Mr MacDougall was quoted at the time as saying the plans were exciting and ambitious, and that in terms of inward investment the proposal was right for St Andrews.

He later strongly emphasised, however, that the scheme would have to be determined against an exhaustive set of criteria.

Last night, the vice-chairman of St Andrews Community Council, Dr Frank Riddell, outlined what, in his opinion, is the main issue for today’s discussion on the call-in request.

“Are the people who were originally so enthusiastic about this project now to be the judge and jury in the case?” he asked. “If they are, it brings the whole decentralised planning system in Fife into disrepute.”

The developers are still adamant that their proposals are right for St Andrews and for Fife.

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