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St Andrews Bay Development (Kingask)
Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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Officials 'gagged' over golf complex

Councillor wants inquiry into claims of pressure

James Rougvie, The Scotsman, 10 July 1999

A Councillor at the heart of the battle to stop a controversial golf development on the outskirts of St Andrews has claimed officials at Fife Council were pressurised to stay silent about the way the application was processed.

Councillor Peter Douglas, the chairman of the council’s east development committee, said that he had received calls at home from employees who wished to remain anonymous because they feared for their jobs, complaining that they had been told to get in line over the Kingask development.

Mr Douglas has now demanded an independent inquiry and is urging that evidence should be presented by sworn submission to get at the truth.

The £50 million golf courses, hotel and conference complex, planned the St Andrews Bay Development Company, was approved earlier this week by a majority of Labour councillors who made it clear they were anxious not to lose the 275 jobs and millions of pounds of investment into the local economy.

Over a number of months, councillors from north east Fife complained bitterly that the Fife Council administration and officials circumvented a number of statutory policies in order to push through the development.

The council has vigorously rejected the accusations, and Councillor Bill Brand, the strategic development committee convener, said yesterday it was obvious to anyone that planning policy had formed the basis of the decision taken, and to allege that objections had been ignored was “ludicrous”.

There had been a number of objections from key national conservation groups, among them Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic Scotland, the Scottish Civic Trust and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, concerned about the intrusion of the 208-bedroom hotel and of the effect the influx of traffic from the development would have on St Andrews.

Mr Douglas yesterday revealed he had taken a number of calls from employees of Fife Council, whom he described as “decent and honest people”, who he said were concerned.

He said: “I have never before been telephoned by Fife employees, seeking anonymity because they fear losing their jobs, complaining of the pressure being put on them to come in line or stay silent.” He said their claims should be subjected to proper scrutiny at an independent inquiry.

“These people called me in confidence and anonymously because they feared they would lose their jobs if they spoke out publicly. They were told to deliver, or else.”

Frances Melville, a Liberal Democrat councillor, confirmed that she too had received a number of similar phone calls. The Liberal Democrat group leader on the council, Andrew Arbuckle, described Mr Douglas as a man of integrity, adding that his statements should be treated very seriously.

Last night, Douglas Sinclair, Fife Council’s chief executive, described Mr Douglas’s remarks as “extremely serious allegations” and said he objected to the attack being made on the integrity of the council’s employees without any evidence to support them.

Mr Sinclair said he was seriously concerned that Mr Douglas had not raised these issues with him personally. He would be seeking an early meeting with the councillor in an effort to get an explanation for his actions.


Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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Kingask dispute escalates with claims of pressure on officials

Gordon Berry, The Courier, 10 July 1999

The bitter row raging over Fife Council’s decision to approve a £50 million golf and hotel development at Kingask, near St Andrews, entered a new phase last night with claims that pressure was applied to officials over how reports on the application should be written.

The Issue was raised by the chairman of the East Fife area development committee - Church of Scotland minister Peter Douglas - who said It had been alleged to him by council employees that they had to “trim their reports, come in line or stay silent.”

Mr Douglas, whose comments last night provoked an angry response from the council’s chief executive, has now asked whether the correct way forward would be an inquiry “Independent of Fife” with sworn submissions.

Mr Douglas was backed by fellow-member Frances Melville, who told The Courier she had been distressed by receiving similar calls but had not felt able to make her concern public.

The chairman of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, Andrew Arbuckle, said he was deeply concerned. He said Mr Douglas was of the utmost integrity and any statement he made should be treated very seriously.

One of the east area members who lent his support to the Kingask scheme, Anthony Garrett, said any such evidence It should be investigated.

The statements have been made as claim and counterclaim have been made about how planning policies were interpreted by council officials as they came to approve the Kingask plan.

The decision flew in the face of advice from almost the complete range of relevant conservation bodies, including Scottish Natural Heritage and the Governments own Historic Scotland.

Last night Mr Douglas said he had been reluctant to raise the matter but added that the “good name of us all in Fife is being trashed and that is in no one’s interest.”

He said the most serious aspect of the Kingask issue was the constant mutterings about the behaviour of Fife Council officials.

“I have never before been telephoned by Fife employees, seeking anonymity because they fear losing their Jobs, and complaining of the pressure being put on them to trim their reports, come in line, or stay silent,” he said.

“Is not the way out of this kind of allegation to have an inquiry independent of Fife where evidence can be made by sworn submission so that no one’s Job is jeopardised? Let’s subject this to the proper scrutiny.”

Mr Douglas said he had received calls from several “decent and honest” employees concerned they had been forced to trim reports.

Last night the council’s chief executive, Douglas Sinclair, said he was seriously concerned that the issues had not been raised with him before Mr Douglas approached the Press.

He said that if any councillor has major concerns they should raise them with him. “If any employee has a concern that they are being asked to act in a way which maybe illegal, improper, or unethical, I can assure them there would be an opportunity for private and confidential discussions with me about their concerns, which our Dignity at Work policy guarantees.

“By approaching the Press in this way Coundulor Douglas may well have made it harder for any employees who have concerns to approach me on this matter. These are extremely serious allegations and I object to the attack being made on the authority without any evidence to support Councillor Douglas’s claims,” said Mr Sinclair.

Mr Sinclair added that be would be seeking an early meeting with Mr Douglas.


Issues raised during turbulent planning phase
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We stuck to planning rules on Kingask - chairman

The Courier, 10 July 1999

A Fife councillor has reacted angrily to suggestions that the authority failed to follow proper planning procedures in its consideration of major golf and leisure related applications for St Andrews.

The chairman of the authority’s strategic development committee, Councillor Bill Brand, was responding to claims from objectors and from North East Fife MSP lain Smith that structure and local plan policies had been ignored when the Kingask project was approved this week.

The statement that planning policies did not support the Kingask application were even made by a Historic Scotland inspector asked by Fife Council to comment on the situation.

Mr Brand, while accepting that there had been “a vast number of plus and minus points”, said that great care had been taken by the council to make sure proper planning procedures had been followed.

“I cannot believe that such allegations continue to be made when it should be blatantly obvious to anyone who has taken the time to read the head of planning’s report to committee that planning policy forms the basis for all the conclusions reached,” he said. “In fact we’ve gone further than that and agreed new guidelines to be applied when future golfing development applications are considered by the council.”

He said some individuals were continuing to demonstrate “complete misunderstanding” of the planning system by asking for the application to be called in. That opportunity, he said, was now past and the fact no action had been taken by the Scottish Secretary or First Minister indicated the council had acted properly.

“To say we have ignored objections is ludicrous. Consultation has gone on for months. We held departure hearings to ensure everyone who wanted a say on the issue could be heard and the East Area development committee’s views were included in the final report to the strategic development committee.

“The East Area vote on the issue was very close and it is a fact that a number of councillors in the East Area supported Kingask. I object to any allegations that the council has run roughshod over its own policies and agreed the application without proper consideration.”

There had been a full debate at the strategic development committee, tight controls in the form of 33 strict planning conditions were in force and it was believed the section 75 agreement, far from being unenforceable, would be an effective safeguard against rising traffic in St Andrews. He believed that, once built, Kingask would be a boon for the town and Fife.

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