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St Andrews Bay Development (Kingask)
Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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£50m golf scheme gets the go-ahead

Gordon Berry and Peter Wright, The Courier, 8 July 1999

Plans for the highly controversial £50 million goIf, leisure and hotel development at Kingask, near St Andrews, were yesterday given the go-ahead by members of Fife Council.

After a lengthy discussion at a session of the authority’s strategic development committee the bitterly opposed, but biggest ever, single inward investment to come to north-east Fife was approved by 12 votes to five.

Plans from the St Andrews International Golf Club for an £18 million project at Scooniehill, to the south of the town, were unanimously rejected by the committee.

Included in the Kingask development will be a 208-bedroom hotel, a 400-person conference centre, leisure facilities, extra accommodation units and two golf courses.

The consent will be subject to strict planning conditions and a unique and minutely detailed legal agreement aimed at imposing rigid controls on traffic movements in and out of the Kingask site.

The decision brings to an end months of debate, recrimination, accusation and counter-accusation over interpretation of planning policies, the actions of officials and councillors, and the possible impact on the landscape around St Andrews and the fabric of the medieval town centre.

The only remaining issue to be settled comes in the form of outstanding demands from North East Fife’s MSP and MP, St Andrews Preservation Trust and the community council for the matter to be “called-in” by First Minister Donald Dewar and subjected to a full public inquiry.

In the wake of yesterday’s decision the developers expressed their delight and promised the area a major international attraction and hundreds of jobs.

However, there were disappointed and sometimes angry comments from the wide array of national conservation bodies and local organisations who put forward formidable opposition to the Kingask plans.

They Included Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Civic Trust, Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, Royal Fine Art Commission, Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland and the local preservation trust.

In his report to the strategic development committee Fife’s head of planning David Rae said he had been disappointed but not surprised by the comments received from Scottish Natural Heritage and Historic Scotland, but he was not compelled to accept them or agree with them.

He said he did not believe that the development would damage the landscape setting of the town or have an unacceptable impact on the coastline.

Instead, he said, the project had the potential to bring considerable economic and tourism benefits to St Andrews and the rest of Fife.

However, Peter Douglas, chairman of the east area development committee and local member for the Kingask site, said that there was no unmet demand for golf in the area and that Fife had plenty of courses.

Councillor Douglas warned that approval of the application would give the planning service and councillors “very considerable headaches with developers coming back to our committees with further applications.”

He said too many developers wanted to come to St Andrews and he expected traffic problems in the town.

The successful motion for approval was put forward by administration member Robert Taylor, who said in the leisure age there was an increased demand for facilities of this type.

“We have to compete internationally to try to attract these facilities, which appeal to a certain type of market which will be to the benefit of Fife.”

He added that the council recognised the “legitimate concerns” about traffic and had done as much as practically possible to find a way forward.

The terms of a separate strategic overview providing guidelines for dealing with future similar types of golf development in Fife were approved.

Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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Fury at ‘rape’ of St Andrews

The Courier, 8 July 1999

Reaction to yesterday’s decision to approve the Kingask application was swift, with representatives of the wide range of conservation bodies and local organisations expressing disappointment.

The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland immediately accused Fife Council of “sacrificing professionalism for political expediency”.

Another, the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, said the decision was not surprising in view of the fact the developer, Dr Don Panoz, had been “paraded before the media” by Fife Council when the application was lodged.

Tayside and Fife secretary of the AHSS, Glen Pride, who has consistently expressed the society’s opposition, said, “Planners are now so American obsessed that Kingask is reported to have a prairie landscape. Need we say more?”

Mr Pride said the society remained unimpressed by the proposals, and anticipated that initial promises on subjects like traffic would be impossible to monitor and easily broken.

The chairman of St Andrews community council, Dr Frank Riddell, said it did not seem to have mattered that the Fife Structure Plan, The St Andrews Local Plan, the St Andrews Strategic Study, the St Andrews Traffic Strategy and the St Andrews Tourism strategy argued strongly against development at Kingask.

“Their policies were abandoned and rejected in the committee papers prepared by officials. They ignored the conclusions of the government’s inspectors for Historic Scotland and the government agency Scottish Natural Heritage. They selectively quoted from their own consultants’ reports to arrive at the planning outcome they desired.

“They ignored the objections of every national body invited to comment on the proposal.

“The outrage felt by local people at this rape of our beautiful town is enormous. The people of St Andrews must now rely on the goodwill of the Scottish executive’s first minister to call in this application.”

The director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, Joan Geddes, said that despite protestations by all the key environmental and amenity agencies at both national and local level, and mounting concern over the handling of the application by Fife Council, it had always been felt that the decision would come down on the side of the developer.

“The community council had already said it may call for a judicial review, or for the issue to be taken to the Court of session, and we intend to support them in that,” she said.

A spokesman for another of the main objecting bodies, Scottish Natural Heritage, said yesterday that the scale of the development proposed was not appropriate to the landscape.

She said it was SNH’s view that there would be a loss of landscape character, adverse effects on the setting of St Andrews, and erosion of the quality associated with an area of great landscape value.

She added that the body would now work with the developer and the council to advise on “how best to minimise" the impact of the scheme.

Another local body, the St Andrews Preservation Trust, also expressed its bitter disappointment.

Chairman Dorothea Morrison said it had been clear that Labour councillors wanted this development to proceed, adding that local views had been patronised and dismissed.

Mrs Morrison said that there was now concern over what would happen next, and about the impact on existing council policy.

“In their determination to push Kingask through they have interpreted policies in such a way that the next developer who comes along only needs to have a clever lawyer to succeed in any planning appeal. They have left themselves wide open, and in 15 or 20 years time my grandchildren are going to be asking me how we could possibly have let this happen.”

After yesterday’s meeting the Kingask developers expressed their delight over the decision and said that employment prospects in the area had received a huge boost.

It is expected that work on the 208-bedroom hotel and conference centre, which will lie two miles east of the home of golf, will begin almost immediately.

The company’s operations director lain McKinnon said that following discussions and consultations which had taken place locally and nationally, St Andrews Bay Development Ltd was very pleased at the outcome.

It was right and proper that the concerns of the community and elected members of Fife Council should have been aired, and every opportunity had been taken over the past 18 months to explain and discuss plans with all interested parties.

Mr McKinnon said that the St Andrews Bay Development Ltd legal agreements with Fife Council on many items, such as traffic management and landscaping were a sound basis on which the strategic development committee could approve the high quality project.

“It has also become clear that there is enormous support for this project in an area which desperately needs sustainable employment for its young people.

“St Andrews Bay will undoubtedly be a major boost to the tourism industry in Fife and will offer a significant contribution to the local economy.

“Some 500 construction jobs are anticipated with 275 permanent jobs being created once the project is complete.”

Mr McKinnon added that the opportunity to create such a worthwhile development was being taken very seriously.

“It can only enhance the stature of St Andrews as an international tourist destination, and bring economic vitality.

“The founders of the company behind the project, Dr Don and Mrs Nancy Panoz, said that St Andrews Bay was an outstanding site and there was confidence that the hotel conference centre and golf courses would quickly become a major international attraction.

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