St Andrews Bay Development (Kingask)
Turbulent Planning Phase - General Comment
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Go-ahead for golf hotel plan
James Rougvie, The Scotsman, 8 July 1999
Fears have been expressed that St Andrews could soon be
under siege from developers after approval was given for a controversial
£50 million golf, conference and hotel complex on the outskirts of the
Despite objections from a raft of influential national
bodies, protests from locals, and appeals to Donald Dewar, the First Minister,
to hold a public inquiry into the plans for the 500-acre Kingask site,
Fife Council has insisted that the promise of nearly 300 jobs and the injection
of millions of pounds into the local economy was its top priority.
But Peter Douglas, the chairman of the north-east planning
committee of the council, said the decision showed ways had been found by the
council to get round a number of its statutory policies.
He said: Now that the door has been opened to find
ways around these policies, the council will find it very difficult to refuse
any further applications. If it does, there will be little chance of winning on
appeal and I think there will now be a flood of further applications. St
Andrews will be a magnet and I believe the area will now come under
The council yesterday refused one application for a
development to the south, at Scooniehill, which involves two golf courses and
related accommodation, but it is expected the proposal will return.
Another development, at Feddinch, for a golf course and 600
holiday units, a hotel, clubhouse and a 350-capacity conference suite has been
withdrawn in the meantime.
Objectors led by Scottish Natural Heritage and Historic
Scotland have consistently opposed the Kingask plans, claiming that the
environment of the area would be irreparably damaged by the construction of the
208-bedroom hotel arid ancillary buildings and the fabric of the town placed
under threat by what they claimed would be vastly increased traffic flows from
The 12 Labour councillors on the strategic development
committee, none of whom represent the north-east Fife area, made it clear that
they believed problems with traffic could be overcome and that the alleged
environmental issues could also be resolved.
Bill Brand, the committee convener, said: Jobs are
important because there is still unemployment in the east of Fife.
He said it did not matter whether the jobs which would be
created would benefit the Levenmouth unemployment black spot or the fishing
villages in the East Neuk.
A job is a job and we ignore opportunities like this
at our peril which could attract further inward investment. We are not
disregarding other issues such as the environment because we genuinely believe
these issues can be well managed.
Yesterdays meeting may have been the last gasp of
protest from hundreds of objectors who have complained that the home of golf is
being over-run by its primary tourist industry. The Kingask plans of the
St Andrews Bay Development Company were originally rejected by the local area
planning authority, but they were called in by Fife Council, despite the
previous practice of allowing local members to decide matters in their own
It became evident yesterday that the Labour members of the
committee had little sympathy with the views of the objectors.
Jock Taylor, from Dysart, said the council put
£500,000 into tourism in Fife and the major benefactor was St
He said: It would be crass stupidity to reject this,
when not a penny of taxpayers money is being spent. If people want to see
environmental problems they should come to central Fife and see the open-cast
While the four Liberal Democrats and a lone Scottish
National Party dissident expressed cynicism over a transport plan to alleviate
traffic congestion in the heart of St Andrews stemming from Kingask -
there will be an estimated 584 trips a day to and from the golf complex into St
Andrews - the council has put in place a series of financial penalties on the
company if traffic flows exceed estimations.
There are also 33 conditions with which the company must
comply, from the finish on the buildings to a management and conservation plan
and road management scheme.
Councillor Bob Taylor asked if councillors really wanted to
resist pressure for new golfing facilities in order to maintain a conservative
vision of what St Andrews should be like, or to use planning conditions to
ensure new developments were introduced in a sensitive way.
He said that the Kingask proposal affected not just
St Andrews but jobs and training opportunities for the whole of Fife.
He said: If this is rejected, it may not be there
again and may give developers the impression that we are not really serious
about attracting inward investment of this kind. There is enormous job creation
potential in a development of this kind.
Penny Uprichard, of the St Andrews Preservation Society,
said she was not surprised by the outcome. The officials have done a
tremendous lot of work with the developers, which is an unusual role. This will
set a precedent for other developers which the council will be unable to
A spokesman for the developer said later that work on the
development would begin almost immediately.
He said: This is an outstanding site and we are
confident that the hotel, conference centre and golf courses will quickly
become an international attraction. The project will bring many benefits to St
Andrews and Fife.
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'Theme park' sparks mixed reactions
Gavin Bell, The Scotsman, 8 July 1999
The only birdies to be seen at Kingask Farm on the
outskirts of St Andrews yesterday were the feathered kind - larks, starlings
and chaffinches chattering above a sweep of green and golden arable land
sloping gently to the sea.
On a calm summer day, it is a peaceful place where
dirt-tracks meander vaguely around old farm buildings, and down to cliffs
overlooking water that shimmers like hammered steel.
Within a couple of years, the erstwhile wheat and barley
fields will be teeming with golfers pursuing birdies of a more elusive kind,
and paying for the privilege of doing so in the latest purpose-built extension
to the home of golf".
The approval of a £50 million golf and leisure
development on the site provoked mixed emotions two miles away in the ancient
royal burgh, where the game reputedly first appeared 500 years ago.
There are those who regard the new tourist playground as an
outrage, those who think it will be good for business, and, as usual, a lot of
people who could not care less.
Dr Frank Riddell, a reader in chemistry at St Andrews
University and chairman of the burgh community council, is firmly in the first
He said: If I appear agitated, it is because I
am, he said when the news came through. Fife Council has breached
about every planning policy in the books to turn St Andrews into a golfing
The essence of Dr Riddells objections is that the
development will threaten the character of the town by strangling it with
traffic, diminishing the green belt around it, and paving the way for similar
schemes that will eventually transform the golfing mecca into a glorified theme
park. In a press statement spiced with catchy hyperbole, he spoke of enormous
public outrage at this rape of our beautiful town.
Popular fury was not immediately apparent in Market Street,
where all tourists and their credit cards are gratefully received, though Dr
Riddell appeared to have an ally in master cobbler Tony Wardle. Have we
no got enough golf courses? he observed. Id say thats
the last thing we need. Itll just be somebody wantin to make plenty
of money as usual.
A few doors along in the Central Bar, the landlord Keith
Irving could not see what all the fuss was about: It sounds like a good
idea, providing they get the traffic sorted out. Bringing more people to the
town has to be a good thing.
Given that St Andrews has survived centuries of wars and
sieges, Mr Irving does not reckon a tourist development two miles away on the
road to Crail will spell the end of life in the town as we know it.
I doubt if it will make much difference. The planners
are very strict about what you can do in the town. Just try and put up a sign
without permission and see what happens, he said.
There is no doubt that an increasing volume of traffic is a
problem, which is not entirely solved by an obscure system of parking permits
purchased from fruit and veg shops.
The spires of Holy Trinity and St Salvators may have
withstood medieval plunderers, but they now tremble before hordes of Astras and
Its damnable trying to get across the road at
the best of times, Joan said yesterday.
Joan declined to give her full name, but confided she had
lived all of her 85 years in St Andrews and for most of them, had been a keen
I dont mind how many golf courses they build,
it doesnt bother me one way or the other. But it would be good if they
could do something about the traffic. The other day I was standing waiting to
cross the street and I counted 40 cars.
Curiously, the local golfing fraternity is not jumping for
joy at the prospect of more playgrounds. The prevailing wisdom is that more
courses means more golfers, and extra pressure on existing facilities that are
struggling to meet demand.
There are already six golf courses in the town, including
the Old Course, and another four miles away, and all of them are heavily
subscribed. For visitors, the odds of being selected from a daily ballot for a
round on the Old Course, is currently 5-1. All the others are operating at over
90 per cent capacity and the course full signs are expected to go
up in three or four years.
Peter Mason, a spokesman for the Links Trust, which manages
all of the towns courses, says: All our experience leads us to
believe that any development aimed at encouraging golfers to come to St Andrews
will increase demand for our facilities. In the recent past, five new courses
have opened within ten miles of the town and there has been no diminution of
demand to play on our links courses.
Mr Mason notes that for aficionados of the game, the
prospect of playing on a links course is what draws them to St Andrews. The new
courses at Kingask, he points out, will be parkland. We can expect
quite a few of the new arrivals to wander in our direction, he says. His
tone suggests he is not overjoyed.
Up at the site, fields harvested for wheat and potatoes
last September are turning to weeds, and grain-drying sheds and workers
cottages are waiting silently for the developers.
Farming is not doing well just now, says Mike
Logan, the eldest son of the farmer who sold the land for an undisclosed sum.
A lot of us are having to turn our steadings into holiday flats and
He reckons anything that brings money into the area has to
be a good thing for everybody. And personally he is quite looking forward to
having a couple of golf courses nearby, not to mention a leisure centre and a
An architect on the project, browsing through deserted farm
buildings with the date 1882 carved on their stone facades, offers a historical
perspective: I suppose it was like this when they built Turnberry and
Gleneagles 100 years ago. People probably objected then, but once they are up
and running, the pain goes away. He was not, therefore, unduly concerned
by the objections over Kingask.
Par for the course, you might say.
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Douce town that failed to fight off the
James Rougvie, The Scotsman, 8 July 1999
It was the champagne reception hosted by Fife Councils
convener, John MacDougall, for the St Andrews Bay Development Co which alerted
and alarmed douce St Andreans of a mega-development on their doorstep.
Not that it was particularly unusual for the council to woo
big bucks from overseas investors. Hyundai was given the same red carpet
treatment and other industrialists have also been glad-handed throughout the
country as local authorities compete for jobs.
At the time all that was known about the company was that
its main man, Dr Don Panoz was a big player on the international sports scene.
He and his wife, Nancy, set up the Elan pharmaceutical company in Dublin 30
years ago. He took out Irish citizenship before going public and the company
has made millions from the development of nicotine patches.
Keeping a seat on the board, he developed the Chateau Elan
golf course complex in Georgia where the Legends Sarazen World Open is played
each year. He runs the Panoz Automatlve motor racing team which competes at Le
Mans and owns racing tracks in Florida and Atlanta.
Several years ago he set eyes on the 500-acre
Kingask site, where plans by a local farmer for a golf course and modest
hotel a mile and a half south along the coast had lain fallow for a number of
years. Outline planning consent had been obtained, but never taken up.
The ambitious plans by the then unknown Dr Panozs
company, which bought Kingask for a reputed £2.5 million, and then
changed the nature of the development into a £50 million investment
unrecognisable from the original, had not even been lodged with the council at
the time the champagne corks were popping.
From the beginning therefore, there was a feeling of a done
deal - an allegation hotly rejected by officials and Labour councillors - but
it sowed the seeds of acrimony between locals anxious to protect a historic
medieval town and councillors from areas far removed from the relative
affluence of St Andrews. It also aroused distrust in the planning system.
For several years councillors in the former district
council areas of Fife had been allowed to decide their own planning matters. So
it was that the north-east committee threw out the Kingask proposal
earlier this year, alarmed at the size and scale of the development and the
traffic which would be generated. That should have been the end of the
But the affair turned sour when it was suggested that the
respected former parish minister Councillor Peter Douglas should resign from
the northeast tourist board for being instrumental in torpedoing the plan.
There was a thinly veiled suggestion that the north-east committee members had
made up their minds before making a decision in committee.
When St Andrews Bay came back with an amended proposal the
Fife Council decided, since other developments were looming, that what had been
a local matter was now a strategic priority affecting the whole region, and
that councillors at the centre - where Labour is predominant - would take the
For every objection put up by local bodies or key national
conservation organisations such as Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic
Scotland, the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, the
councils planners had an answer, convinced that each could be overcome
despite a raft of local policy documents against further development.
Waiting in the wings now may be a series of further
developments hoping to use, the home of golf as a magnet for visitors to this
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