It’s ‘tree’ times ‘no’ for plan to build homes

The protected  tree at the Kinghorn Road site in Burntisland before it was cut down

The protected tree at the Kinghorn Road site in Burntisland before it was cut down

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The daughter of a property developer, who attacked a 100-year-old protected tree in a fit of frustration, has seen plans to build homes on the site thrown out for the third time.

Fife Council’s central area planning committee refused the latest plans, despite the applicant having appealed to the Scottish Government on the grounds of non-determination. The local authority had failed to determine the proposal within the required two months period.

Sarah Wilkie, who now owns the land in Kinghorn Road, Burntisland, having purchased it from her father Robert, for £10,000 last year, must now await the decision of a government-appointed reporter.

Mr Wilkie hit the headlines in March 2015 when he escaped the maximum punishment of £20,000, instead being fined £400, after taking a chainsaw to the sycamore tree, which was covered by a protection order which had been put in place in 2012.

The tree, which was the subject of a deluge of objections and the main reason for two planning application refusals, had been described as a local landmark and an “ancient symbol” of the area.

It was eventually cut down for safety reasons after Mr Wilkie was found guilty of cutting two rings into the tree, causing it to die.

In discussions over whether to approve the latest application, Councillor Marie Penman told the committee Fife Council was in danger of setting a precedent for future developments should it give approval.

“Having been turned down for a couple of reasons, the builder has stamped his feet in dismay and decided to saw the tree down anyway. The £400 was just a slap on the wrist,” she said.

“He broke the law, he flouted planning regulations, he ignored Fife Council’s advice and did what he wanted anyway and, if the end result is that he gets to build on that site, he has achieved what he wanted.”

The failure to provide a suitable noise report, and the view that the proposed development would be located too close to where a protected replacement tree was to be planted, drew a unanimous refusal by the committee.