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St Andrews Bay Development (Kingask)
Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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Councillors unite to question hearings on golf centres

The Courier, 23 June 1999

The councillors who represent all four St Andrews wards on Fife Council yesterday presented a united front to question developments in the row over planned major golf and leisure developments in the area.

A statement from the councillors said that last week’s special departure hearings - claimed by the councillors to have been arranged in haste without adequate information available - left the administration lacking credibility and trust.

The meeting ended in controversy, with criticism coming from the chairman of the community council, Dr Frank Riddell, because there was an apparent mixup over details of one set of proposals.

Dr Riddell said that the meeting had degenerated into an “absolute shambles” and that what had happened had backed up the plea made by his council and the local preservation trust for the entire issue to be subjected to an independent Scottish Office inquiry.

Councillors Frances Melville, Jane Hunter-Blair, Sheila Hill, and Jane Anne Liston yesterday said they decided to speak out jointly after being swamped by comments from members of the public and local bodies.

Yesterday Councillor Melville made a statement on behalf of all four, and said they were disheartened by the likelihood that previous studies carried out in the area were about to be “torn apart.”

“Why has the council gone to the expense of organising comprehensive studies, with local consultation, into subjects like transportation, landscape and strategic issues if it is about to disregard them.

“This new stage of the process has been far too rushed, and not enough facts are yet known to the locally elected representatives.

“We are having an area development committee early next week when we will be asked to come to a view on the plans for Kingask, Feddinch, and Scooniehill before they are taken out of our hands for a final decision.

“Even now we do not have the information we require - for instance the results of the crucial independent traffic study have still not been made known.

“All of this information should have been given to us before last week’s hearings so that the discussion could have been properly informed, and relevant questions asked.

“The strategic overview being undertaken by the council should have been completed and fully agreed before the administration decided to tear headlong into hearings for which it was not prepared.”

It was now clear, she said, that Dr Riddell’s comments had been fully justified, and that for some reason the administration wanted to press ahead regardless.

“Local people are wondering just what is going on, and we as councillors feel that we are being railroaded by a process dictated by an administration which has an unassailable majority and which has seen some of its members already express strong support or one of these schemes.”

Councillor Melville said that it was also felt by the four councillors that if there was a hitch with the Feddinch application, and it did not require consideration at this time, it would create questions over any moves or a ‘call-in’ of the centres.

In that case there would be only two relevant applications, and the matter could very properly be dealt with in East Fife.

Yesterday the planning convener of St Andrews Community Council, Ian Goudie, said that the people of the town were due apologies “or at least plausible explanations” after the Feddinch section of the departure hearings degenerated into a farce.

Most perplexing of all, he said, was the implication that, prior to the hearing, the applicant Michael Johnston and officials, failed to communicate adequately with each other.

“Are we supposed to believe that although Mr Johnston showed the officials his new plans and pictures they thought he was doing so only for their general interest and that he had no intention of making a formal revision of his application.”

Mr Goudie said that in view of the implausibility of the explanations offered, it was hardly surprising that some people in St Andrews were concluding that they had watched a “piece of theatre.”

“They suspect that a decision was taken that a beauty contest between the the golf-related applications required three contestants if it was going to look at all credible.

“Hence it was necessary to wheel the Feddinch contestant on to the stage, propped up between Mr Johnston and the officials, even though that contestant, in her current manifestation, had died some time before.”

Mr Goudie said that what was certain was that the convenience of the people of St Andrews came rather low on the council’s agenda last week.

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