House conversion plan meets wall of protest

The frontage of 25 South Street, St Andrews
The frontage of 25 South Street, St Andrews
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PLANS to convert an historic, listed property in St Andrews town centre into four flats have met with stiff opposition.

The controversial proposals centre on an 18th century residential property at 25 South Street, in the heart of the town’s conservation area. The building is the former home, for 40 years, of the late Sir John Cowperthwaite, a renowned British civil servant and the financial secretary of Hong Kong for 10 years until 1971.

An application for full planning permission for the sub-division and external alterations, along with listed building consent for internal alterations, to form four flatted dwellinghouses has been lodged with Fife Council.

However, strong objections have been submitted by St Andrews 
Community Council, conservation pressure group St Andrews Preservation Trust, the Eastenders Residents’ Association and several individuals.

Howard Greenwell, convener of the planning committee of the community organisation, said: ”The council recognises this is yet another attempt to avoid the HMO moratorium by creating as many two-bedroom flats as possible in a small space, which can then be let to students.

“We object to the loss of yet another family home from the centre of St Andrews and to the level of overcrowding and noise that such a development will create.”

A spokesman for the residents’ association added: ”Occupancy of four flats would add significantly to the potential for noise and disturbance to neighbours. There is no garden or adequate open space attached to the house.

“There is no parking provision in a part of the town already completely congested by vehicles. This is overdevelopment, in a conservation area already gravely compromised by the huge expansion of a very largely short-term and transient population, which strains its infrastructure and threatens its sustainability.”

The group also maintains that the proposed internal alterations would “fundamentally and definitely destroy” the interior of the house, making it impossible to reinstate its historic layout and character.

It also disputes a claim by the owners of the house that the redevelopment would make it ‘more affordable and thus available to individuals, couples and families, who may not otherwise be able to afford to live in the central town location’.

The association spokesman maintained that such a scenario was out of the question and added: ”It is a speculative property development.”

Also opposing the plans is the Preservation Trust and a spokeswoman said: ”So much of the historic heart of St Andrews is being turned into flats. This is destroying the whole character of the town.”

One local resident added: ”It is obvious that the intention behind this is to provide accommodation for eight students and this would add yet further to the serious imbalance of students living in this area.”

The applicant is proposing a three-room apartment on each of the ground, first and second floors and a two-room apartment on the third floor.