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St Andrews Bay Development (Kingask)
Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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Golf development debate moves into final stages

The Courier, 29 June 1999

Weeks of often bitter debate over whether or not the world-famous Home of Golf should become the focus of multi-million hotel and leisure developments will enter its closing stages today.

Councillors will have to balance the promise of hundreds of jobs, lengthening of the visitor season and injection of many millions of pounds and dollars into the local economy against the widespread feeling of conservation bodies and objectors that large-scale development could ruin the town’s unique setting and strangle its medieval centre through increased traffic.

Today members of Fife Council’s east area development committee will gather in Cupar’s County Buildings to formulate a view on two plans - the £50 million scheme at Kingask and the smaller but still extensive £18 million Scooniehill development.

Plans for a third venture, a huge golf and holiday home venture at Feddinch, were surprisingly withdrawn at the weekend by Dundee-based business man Michael Johnston, although he indicated that he still hoped to go ahead in the future.

Even on the eve of today’s meeting it was made clear that St Andrews Community Council has written once more to Fife’s head of planning to question several matters.

In addition the chairman of the east area development committee, Councillor Peter Douglas, has expressed the view that withdrawal of the Feddinch plans has put an entirely different complexion on the “multiple application” scenario used to help Fife Council to justify its controversial move to “call-in” the final decision to the central strategic development committee.

Today councillors will have be fore them a strategic overview and a report on the relative merits of the applications. The reports were prepared when all were still they rule out both Feddinch and Scooniehill as contenders.

Both the strategic overview and the report on the applications express a preference for the Kingask application. This involves a site that already has outline consent for a hotel and two golf courses.

“The scale of the development has now gone well beyond what was originally envisaged and building is no longer to be concentrated on the footprint of steading buildings.”

The decision to call in the applications and prepare the overview was taken in the wake of the east area development committee’s decision to go against the recommendation of area planning manager Jim Birrell for approval of the Kingask scheme.

That decision was followed by criticism from Fife administration councillors supportive of the Kingask plans.

The question was even asked, and vehemently denied, if the vote in east Fife had been rigged before the meeting. The committee chairman was also unsuccessfully invited to consider his position on the area tourist board.

East area councillors will not be allowed to make any decisions on the matter but their views will passed to next week’s meeting of the strategic development committee in Glenrothes.

In making their decisions, councillors will have access to independent reports prepared by landscape and traffic consultants and a wide range of objections and letters of support.

In relation to Kingask there are 269 objections and 47 letters of support, with Scooniehill attracting 71 objections and three letters of support.

It was also made clear yesterday that St Andrews Community Council chairman Dr Frank Riddell has written once more to the council’s head of planning, David Rae.

Yesterday Dr Riddell said he had pointed out that the original outline consent for Kingask made no mention of ancillary facilities and there was “no way” that anything in that consent could be construed as a conference centre.

Dr Riddell said he had also stated in the letter that Mr Rae had not given due weight to comments from Historic ScotIand, and had only quoted comments favourable to Kingask.

Last night the councillor who will chair today’s meeting and whose ward includes both sites - Peter Douglas - said that councillors had been told repeatedly that they must follow structure plans, and guidance given by Fife Council, but it appeared that they were being asked to breach them.

Mr Douglas also said that at the preamble of the last strategic development meeting, Mr Rae had claimed that he had never had any doubt that Kingask should decided locally. The matter had, said Mr Rae, become a strategic one because of multiple applications.

“I am not sure that there are multiple applications any more. The ball park has changed again,” said Mr DougIas.

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