St Andrews Bay Development (Kingask)
Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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Objections to £50m plan overlooked in
The Courier, 9 February 1999
Details of a major objection to the proposed £50
million hotel, conference and leisure complex at Kingask near St Andrews
have not been put before councillors considering the application.
It emerged yesterday, only hours before a decision is due
to be made by the east area development committee, that objections from
Scottish Natural Heritage had been overlooked in a report prepared by planning
officials. The body had sent a letter and supporting arguments on November
East area planning manager Jim Birrell last night
acknowledged that there had been a slipup in the administrative process, and
said attempts would be made to find out what had happened.
He said copies of the objections would be circulated to the
committee when it meets in Cupar today to make a final decision.
In the letter Scottish Natural Heritage said the
application sought to introduce a large new development away from the original
farm steading, existing cluster of buildings and associated woodland into open
The body said there was a fundamental difference in the
nature, scale and location of what was now proposed to what had permission in
Scottish Natural Heritage considers the scale and
type of the built development as proposed is not appropriate to, or in keeping
with, its landscape setting.
As a result the proposed development will result in a
significant and adverse visual and landscape impact. These impacts comprise
loss of landscape character, adverse impact on the landscape setting of St
Andrews, erosion of the landscape quality associated with the area of great
landscape value and proximity of development to the coast.
It was said that there would also be an associated adverse
impact on peoples experience of the landscape and views from the coastal
The letter said SNH was of the view that the proposed
development would have significant impacts on the natural heritage of the area.
The built development planned would not be compatible with criteria in national
planning policy guidelines and current development plans to ensure appropriate
and sensitive siting.
Elsewhere in their representations SNH said they were
particularly concerned the proposed mitigation of the new building was reliant
on successful establishment of new planting. The proposed planting might not be
as success as predicted, might fail altogether in such an exposed coastal
location, or at best would take a long time to become established.
In a subsequent letter the body has maintained its
objection and said that amendments which had been tabled did not resolve
fundamental concerns about the location, scale and nature of the proposal.
Meanwhile the planning convener of St Andrews Community
Council has launched a scathing attack on senior Fife Council officials -
accusing them of embarrassing U-turns in their stance over the Kingask
Ian Goudie also reckons that objectors would have a
field day if the application ever went to a public inquiry, and accused
the local authority of clutching at straws through its support of
St Andrews Bay Development Ltds newly proposed travel management
Mr Goudie said yesterday, The leading Labour figures
in Fife appear to support the Kingask project in the belief jobs are
more important than environmental considerations. Although they seem to have
ignored the largely seasonal nature of the work and the huge uncertainties of
the whole project, it seems an honest, if misguided stance, in line with their
In contrast it is the approach taken by the top
officials of Fife Council that has incensed people in St Andrews. They have
effectively disowned a whole string of planning guidelines that they have
produced or commissioned.
For the sake of the Kingask application they
are prepared to override the St Andrews Transportation Study, the St Andrews
Strategic Study, the Landscape Assessment Study and Fifes policy on town
They have been performing U-turns that would make the
most hard-bitten politician blush, and clutching at any fig leaf to hide their
Mr Goudie said the latest fig leaf - the travel management
scheme - would do little to hide officials nakedness. His salvo was fired
just weeks after the council said that excess traffic from Kingask could
strangle an already congested St Andrews.
He said it is simply not plausible that the
hotel could control the movements of its guests by bussing them from rail or
plane interchanges. He also suggested that the idea of guests being prepared to
relinquish their cars was not in the real world.
Attempts to govern the trips that guests take during
their stay is even less so. If such a regime were attempted the guests would be
forming an escape committee and tunnel their way out, claimed Mr
He claimed that hardly a number in the report could stand
up to scientific investigation through a public inquiry.
The stance taken by officials had created a huge
policy vacuum for St Andrews at a point where a strategic overview is most
needed. The short-sighted position they have adopted means they must now make
up policy on the hoof. Planning procedures depend crucially on precedent. You
cannot, with any hope of success, try to enforce tomorrow the rules you were
prepared to waive today, he said.
It is widely known that the Kingask application
is only the first of a string of proposals for golf courses and golf-related
projects around the town. If the planners intend to oppose any of these
applications - a hypothesis which looks wildly optimistic on recent showing -
they have left themselves with hardly any tools to do so.
A coherent approach to long-term planning requires
the skills of a chess player - looking several moves ahead to see the future
implications of current strategy. Few of the officials of Fife Council will
cause Gary Kasparov to have sleepless nights, he concluded.
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