Fears once more for Leslie House

Site preparations continue in grounds of Leslie House. Pics: Steve Brown
Site preparations continue in grounds of Leslie House. Pics: Steve Brown

Fears are growing for the future of one of Fife’s most historic buildings as the Scottish Government prepare to decide on a controversial planning application appeal.

A proposal to build 28 houses in the grounds of the once-stately home was emphatically rejected by Fife Council in August 2015 because of the failure to include an ‘enabling development’ clause - a requirement for the profits of the house sales to be used to fund a restoration project.

Leslie House

Leslie House

This had been agreed for the original planning application for 12 houses and its omission was one of the main reasons the council’s central area planning committee rejected the proposal.

But that decision has been appealed by developer Muir Homes and a Scottish Reporter is now to visit the site later this month to determine whether to give the go-ahead to plans that have angered both residents and councillors alike.

And further concerns have now been raised over initial site preparations, the marking of potential plots and the clearing of large areas of shrubbery.

Councillor Kay Morrison, whose constituency Leslie House is in, told the Gazette: “The developer is acting within the rights bestowed by the first planning application.

“Seeing workers clearing part of the site has been startling to residents but I’ve been assured by the planning service that this work is legitimate.

“However I will be monitoring the situation and the decision of appeal closely.”

Leslie House has had something of a chequered history since a blaze gutted the former ancestral home of the Duke and Earl of Rothes in February 2009.

Property developer Sundial Properties who own the house maintained recently that they have had no discussion with Muir Homes over the future funding of a restoration for Leslie House.

Council could seek future judicial review

Mary Stewart, service manage,r said the Council is keen to secure the future of Leslie House.

She said:‘We are dealing with the site proposed for the housing development separately because it has a different owner and we are waiting for the Reporter’s decision about the current appeal.

“The site clearance activity does not constitute the start of the development, so the developer is entitled to carry out this work.

“If the appeal is allowed, the council has the option to seek a Judicial Review if we consider that the process of arriving at that decision is flawed.

“However, while not impossible it is unlikely because between 2003 and 2012 there were only six cases where a planning authority sought such a review in Scotland.”