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St Andrews Bay Development (Kingask)
Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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Hotel refusal sparks council attack

The Courier, 18 February 1999

A leading member of the administration of Fife Council was bitterly criticised last night over remarks - described by an Independent councillor as “almost criminal” - she has made in the wake of last week’s refusal of the controversial £50 million Kingask hotel and conference development.

Transportation spokeswoman Helen Eadie, who was not at the meeting where the issue was discussed, has asked whether the Liberal Democrat group had taken a decision to refuse the application before the meeting started.

She has also strongly criticised committee chairman Peter Douglas over remarks he made about the performance of head of transportation Alan Bryan at the meeting and over a claim that “the spin of the ball” had been given to the developers in committee papers.

She has raised the point about the vote, stating that it came from “an observer who attended the meeting”, despite the fact the committee spent almost three hours in debate and that clear divisions were shown in the Liberal Democrat group.

There was a narrow seven-five vote for rejection and during the discussion, it appeared feeling was swaying in favour of the developers at one point.

Last night the suggestion that any decision had taken place before the meeting started was dismissed out of hand by committee chairman Peter Douglas, who is also the local member for the Kingask site.

There was a similar response from councillors who supported the application, including Independent member Jimmy Braid, who said Councillor Eadie’s comments were “shocking, irresponsible, damnable, and indeed almost criminal”.

“The hands that always go up together are the Labour ones and I have absolutely no doubt, even though I very strongly backed the Kingask plans and lost, that this was a genuine vote and a genuine discussion.

“We actually, discuss things in East Fife, whereas in Glenrothes the officials could write the minutes before the meetings even take place.”

Another councillor who voted for approval of the plans, Cupar member Allan Dow, said the suggestion made in Mrs Eadie’s letter was “arrant nonsense”.

Even though he supported the scheme, he said, there had been a very poor showing from Mr Bryan over the transportation issue, which had turned out to be crucial in the vote.

Another supporter of the plans, Liberal Democrat Central member Roly Jack, said that any suggestion of a block vote in East Fife was absolute rubbish and a “complete lie”. Councillor Jack said that as he listened to the discussion he had thought the vote would have been even closer, maybe even a tie.

Another supporter of the scheme, councillor Donald Lothian, said it might be the case that other political parties operated in this way, but to say this of Liberal Democrats in East Fife was to misunderstand their “free thinking and independence of mind”.

The points had been raised in a letter to Mr Douglas in which Councillor Eadie said that if developers had the slightest suspicion that a group decision had been taken they would “rush to legal redress in the courts”.

She also paid tribute to both Mr Bryan and area planning manager Jim Birrell, stating that Mr Douglas “must be aware of the demotivating effect your public criticism has on both officials”.

She said officials were not in position to defend themselves, and that to criticise them was to stoop to the lowest level in political life.

Councillor Eadie went on to demand that the chairman should make a public apology to both officials, who “deserved no less”.

Last night Mr Douglas gave a detailed response to any suggestion of the committee having made up its mind as a group prior to last week’s crucial Kingask discussion.

He said this had been plainly obvious when it was considered that of the five councillors who voted for the development, four were Liberal Democrats while seven Liberal Democrats had voted against the £50 million plans.

Mr Douglas said, “In the old days of the North East Fife District Council planning committee, we never made decisions as a political group and that tradition has continued. This has been shown by the final voting figures on Kingask which show a clear split.”

Mr Douglas said that as chairman he had, in fact, been “somewhat careful” because he knew the application was contentious.

He explained that the chairman would normally call on the local member to speak first once the planning manager had read his report. But on this occasion, as Mr Douglas himself was the local member for the Gleneden and Crail ward which includes Kingask, he said he deliberately kept out of the debate until other members had had their say.

Reiterating the conclusions reached by councillors at the meeting, he said a majority of the committee had remained unhappy about transport matters in and around St Andrews and this is why the vote had gone the way it did.

As local member he had agreed with these worries and voted against the plans accordingly.

Mr Douglas added, “For Councillor Eadie to suggest otherwise might itself be a disincentive for other investors in the area if they reckon that a senior councillor is apparently prepared to spread allegations which are not the truth. We are not prepared to be bullied by anyone."

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