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Convener attacked over Kingask plans
Craig Nisbet, The Citizen, 19 February 1999
In the wake of plans for the £50 million
Kingask hotel and conference centre being rejected, East Area Planning
Convener, Councillor Peter Douglas, has this week been the target of
resignation calls and demands for apologies to council officials.
Defending his position, Councillor Douglas - the local
member for Gleneden and Crail in which the Kingask site falls - said
this week that he went to the crucial planning meeting with the hope that there
was some way the plans could be accepted or progressed.
Calls for Councillor Douglas resignation came not for
his position as planning chairman but his post on the Kingdom of Fife Tourist
Board which met in Glenrothes earlier this week.
Dysart Councillor John Cameron said that Councillor Douglas
should be leaving his position on the board in light of his involvement in the
The longest-serving member of the Tourist Board, Councillor
Douglas dismissed the call saying he had no intention of going.
Further attacks came on Wednesday when Councillor Douglas
was accused of stooping to the lowest level of political life.
The attack came from Councillor Helen Eadie, Charlestown,
the Roads and Transportation spokesperson for Fife Council, who described
Councillor Douglas public criticism of senior council officials as
In a pointed letter him, she said that she could not
comment on the decision of the East Area Planning Committee over the
Kingask project. However, she referred to press reports of the four-hour
discussion on the project and said that, if they were true, she was
If it is the case that you levelled such severe
public criticism against both Alan Bryan and Jim Birrell, Fife Council
officials, then I find it deplorable that you should choose to do so, she
said. In the letter, Councillor Eadie pointed out that she had always taken the
view that it was fair to criticise politicians but not civil servants, no
matter what level of government they serve.
There is an understanding and acknowledgement that
officials are not in a position to defend themselves and, therefore, to
criticise them is to stoop to the lowest level in political life, she
Defending the professionalism of the two officials - Alan
Bryan is head of transportation for Fife Council and Jim Birrell is the
councils East Area planning manager - Councillor Eadie said that Mr
Bryans competence was recognised by his fellow professionals, much
further afield that just Fife.
She said that Mr Birrell was equally highly respected by
She asked Councillor Douglas to make a public apology to
both, stating: They deserve no less. On a political point,
Councillor Eadie said that it had been alleged to her that the Lib Dem
political group in North East Fife had already taken a decision on the
Kingask project prior to the planning meeting.
Making no apology for his comments at the meeting,
Councillor Douglas said: We found Alan Bryans presentation to the
committee very confusing.
I had gone there with a hope that there was some way
that we could accept or progress the application. He did not come up with
answers that the committee found satisfactory. He was questioned again and
again and couldn't or wouldn't give answers.
On the question of a political decision being taken, he
added: Anybody can look at the track record and will find that we vote
across party lines on planning matters and that is the correct thing to
He pointed out that four other councillors voted
differently, one of them being Roly Jack who is the vice-Chairman of the East
Area Planning Committee.
I have a high regard for Jim Birrell, said Mr
He has got to come down on one side or another. Once
he has made that decision he is bound to come down making as strong a case as
he can for his recommendation. The committee doesn't always accept his
Councillor Douglas added that, as the local councillor, he
did not enter into the debate on Kingask straight after the planning
managers presentation to the committee - normal committee practice for
He had had around 16 points which he wanted answers to and,
during the debate, most of these were covered. It was after a motion was put
forward that Councillor Douglas, as the local member, gave his input.
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