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Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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Councillor attacks speed of planning applications

Gordon Berry, The Courier, 2 June 1999

A Leading North-East Fife councillor has accused Fife Council of acting with “indecent haste” in deciding on the three major planning applications for golf and leisure developments currently looming over St Andrews.

The comments were made by east area development committee chairman Peter Douglas, then immediately backed by two other St Andrews councillors, expressing the fear that crucial special hearings were being arranged when detailed information required is unlikely to be available.

Fife Council’s administration was criticised just before the elections, when it was decided the final decision on the multi-million-pound Kingask, Feddinch and Scooniehill applications be taken out of locally elected hands.

The £50 million Kingask application is furthest along the line, having already been narrowly rejected by east area members due to concerns about size, scale and traffic impact.

The developers have appealed this decision with the Scottish Office, in the meantime submitting a new, more detailed application, similar in terms of size and scale.

All three applications require extensive accommodation, two of them with 200 bedroom hotels and conference facilities, the other with lodge-style club accommodation.

Fife Council eventually decided on a strategic overview of the situation, engaging landscape and traffic management consultants to look at the implications.

Widely differing claims have been put forward about the possible affect of extra traffic on the congested town centre.

The council has made clear that the applications all represent departures from the approved development plans. Therefore special hearings will be held to examine all the relevant issues.

Applications would then go before the east area committee, so those councillors can form a view on the plans, while unable to make formal decisions.

The final determination is made at a special meeting of the strategic development committee, which would be similar to one that recently decided major quarrying applications in Fife.

Yesterday Councillor Douglas, whose East Neuk ward runs to the edge of St Andrews and includes all three sites, said he had been told that the departure hearings were to be held this month but that it was extremely unlikely that all of the relevant information could be gathered before then.

“What this appears to be is just a facade of consultation, which is is just not honest. The departure hearings have to be fully informed or it will be impossible for a balanced view to be reached.

“Having made the decision to reach a strategic overview, and argued that the applications should all be dealt with together, this is not the way the council should be acting.

“In order that people should understand my concern, I have to ask if all relevant information on Feddinch will be available in the same detail as it is for the other two applications, and whether the results of the traffic study will be finalised.”

Newly elected St Andrews councillor Jane Hunter-Blair was equally critical of the speed of proceedings.

“These are very major developments and people should be prepared to wait. We must have all of the necessary information about all of the applications before we move to the departure hearing stage, and we do not want the results of the independent studies to be produced in haste.”

Another St Andrews member, Frances Melville, said that she was still waiting for answers to whether all three applications are processed at the pace of the slowest one.

Councillor Melville said that she was very unhappy to have decisions made with such speed.

Last night the leader of the council administration, Christine May, said that there was a lot of “huffing and puffing” surrounding the issue.

She said that as far she understood the time frame allowed was realistic given the need to make determinations on the applications and have a reasoned debate.

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