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St Andrews Bay Development (Kingask)
Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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East area members are to decide on £50m proposals

The Courier, 2 February 1999

Fife Council strategic development committee yesterday confirmed its decentralisation policy - one of the main platforms of the Labour administration’s manifesto - by remitting the decision-making process on £50 million development proposals to its east area members.

The developers behind the Kingask hotel, conference, golf and leisure complex have planned for a coastal site east of St Andrews. They asked Fife Council, through a letter from solicitors, to call in the application for determination at the “centre of operations” because of strategic issues involved and the Fife-wide implications.

Their request for a call-in came as east area councillors were mid-way through their decision-making process and sought more in formation on their proposals, particularly on traffic issues, scale and location.

The meeting heard that the complex would mainly be used by conference delegates, who would take up 80% of the beds.

Committee chairman Willie Aitken said concerns had been expressed locally on transport issues, adding, “It’s really a matter for the east development committee.”

Council head of planning David Rae said, “This is a significant application with economic benefits which could arise for the whole of Fife, but it has to be considered against the background of planning policies.”

He added, “The area development committee took the view that, for reasons relating mainly to transportation, they wished the application to be continued - and this is quite reasonable. It caused a problem for the applicants, who were concerned about the time-scale, but it seems to me the area committee have behaved quite properly in dealing with the application.

“This application raises strategic issues, and it affects the whole of Fife.

“We took the conscious decision that we would enable the area development committee to take these important planning considerations, including strategic and local planning issues. I believe we have taken the opportunity here in Fife to act as one planning authority and give the area planning committees the responsibility to deal with a construction plan.”

Christine May, the administration leader, agreed it was a matter for the east area development committee. “We have, as an administration, been proud of our decentralisation initiatives. I am sure the committee will take proper recognition of the concerns raised at their last meeting. We should allow them to act after a properly debated decision.”

East area development committee chairman Peter Douglas said, “Faced with the figures we were given at our last meeting there was no way we could have allowed it through on the traffic figures.”

He suggested the congestion “would have strangulated the town completely. We need some amelioration of the traffic difficulty.”

He added, “There are a lot of arguments on both sides, but the traffic thing is absolutely critical,” although the size and site had also been raised.

Councillor Bill Brand acknowledged, “It’s a major problem to try to fit in major projects like this into that sort of area.”

At the suggestion of Councillor Aitken the meeting agreed to note the letter from the solicitors asking the matter be “called in.”

Reaction to the latest twist in the Kingask saga was mixed.

The council’s move to leave the final decision to the east area development committee was welcomed by Councillor lain Smith, leader of the Fife Council Liberal Democrats, who said that common sense had prevailed.

Mr Smith, who last week urged the council not to call-in the application, said, “Clearly the east area development committee is best placed to make the correct judgment between the economic advantages and the environmental impact of this development.”

However, St Andrews Preservation Trust chairwoman Dorothea Morrison said her members remained “worried and confused” by the whole episode, and said yesterday’s meeting had raised a number of questions - particularly on the traffic issue.

“It was stated today by a council transportation official that the conference centre at Kingask could reduce traffic congestion in St Andrews. This would be done by reducing the existing conference business in the town. They would take it away, which is worrying,” she said.

“Also, the developer has apparently said to some elected councillors over the past few weeks that they are willing to reduce the size of the conference centre by having only four or five conferences per annum, claiming there would be less traffic in St Andrews. Yet today we are told that 80% of business at Kingask will come from conference business. It all seems contrary to what we have been told.”

Mrs Morrison is also mystified by suggestions from the council that guests would be bussed in from airport and/or rail links and by-pass St Andrews.

In a statement, the company behind the Kingask plans - St Andrews Bay Development Ltd - last night said that, through their professional advisers, they would “continue to work closely with the officials of Fife Council to resolve all outstanding matters related to the application at Kingask.”

When Kingask again comes before the east area development committee, members will have the choice of accepting, rejecting or remitting the matter to the central planning committee with a recommendation for rejection.

It would appear that if the proposals were to go back to the centre, opponents would have the option of taking action through the courts, calling for a judicial review, or appealing to the Scottish Secretary.

St Andrews Community Council vice-chairman Dr Frank Riddell said of yesterday’s decision, “We have taken a small step forward but we are not out of the woods yet. There’s a long long way to go.

“The community council will review all of the options open to it when a decision is taken by the east area development committee.”

He said an extra 750 vehicle movements a day along residential Lamond Drive would be “totally unacceptable” to all the people in that part of the town.

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