‘Homeless hostel’ refusal welcomed

CONTROVERSIAL plans to turn an Auchtermuchty hotel into a ‘homeless hostel’ have been rejected by councillors.

The decision was greeted with scenes of jubilation among the dozens of villagers who turned out to hear the debate.

More than 130 objections and a petition of 140 signatures were lodged against the application, which would have seen the Forest Hills Hotel in the heart of the village turned into a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

The building’s 11 bedrooms would have been used to accommodate up to 19 council-referred homeless people on a bed and breakfast basis.

Andy Heer, chair of Auchtermuchty Community Association, said the decision would come as a “great relief” to most villagers.

He told the Fife Herald: “We appreciate there must be provision made for homeless people, but this would have been totally unsuitable.”

One neighbour, who asked not to be named, said she was “thrilled” the application was turned down.

She added: “We think this is the right decision for a wide variety of reasons — the proposal was outrageous.

“The Forest Hills Hotel is in the heart of the conservation area and is the focus for a lot of community and family events.

“To take that away from Auchtermuchty would change the nature of the village.”

Members of Fife Council’s north east area committee were asked to approve the application, but the plans were unanimously thrown out.

Concerns were raised about the scale of the proposal, impact on the local area, and — with hotel windows overlooking a neighbouring property — privacy.

Locals feared an increase in antisocial behaviour in the village, but that was not taken into account in the planning process.

The applicant, Duncan Heaton-Armstrong of Falkland, expressed his dismay at the outcome, but said he would not be lodging an appeal.

He told the Fife Herald: “We won’t be appealing as we have already found a suitable property elsewhere on a larger scale and are currently putting in place plans to help the homeless.”

Mr Heaton-Armstrong thanked Fife Council’s homeless department for its help and said he felt for the hotel’s owners, who now have little prospect of a sale.

He added: “It’s very easy for people who live in warm, comfortable accommodation to make decisions affecting the homeless.”