Kinaldy housing appeal refused

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AN appeal against refusal by Fife councillors of a controversial planning application for a residential development at a former equestrian centre a few miles south of St Andrews has been turned down.

Perth-based Blazon Investments Ltd. had lodged the appeal against the decision by the local authority’s North East Fife area committee to reject the proposal for a change of use and demolition of the equestrian centre at Kinaldy Meadows and the erection of five houses and landscaping at the 1.9-hectare site.

However, Mike Croft, a Reporter appointed by the Scottish Ministers, has dismissed the appeal and refused planning permission.

The planned development had met with stiff opposition from Cameron Community Council and numerous residents in the area - it was branded “a blot on the landscape” by one objector - and was rejected by councillors in the interests of design and visual amenity and as inappropriate for the rural setting.

It was also considered that the development would result in a loss of rural employment and business land; be unjustified development in the countryside, unrelated to agriculture or any other rural business; and was unsuitable for new housing development due to poor access to facilities, including schools and public transport.

In his findings, the Reporter said the determining issue was whether the appeal project accorded with policies relating to the location of new housing in the countryside and, if not, whether that was outweighed by other material considerations.

He noted that the equestrian centre was built in 1998-99, following outline planning permission granted by the former Fife Regional Council in 1995. Also included in the outline permission were six chalets (holiday homes) north of the equestrian centre and a manager’s house, none of which have been built.

Mr Croft said that notwithstanding the benefits of the appeal project in securing the site against the possibility of future environmental degradation, it was significantly at odds with the thrust of the current development plan and other planning policy.

He added:”I accept the appeal project would contribute to housing land supply in the area, although the contribution would not be great.

“I take no exception to the layout and design of what is proposed. The layout, as revised in consultation with the council’s officers, would reflect a traditional steading form. Notwithstanding that the proposed houses would be higher than the existing dwellings to the west, I disagree with the council in terms of immediate visual impact when it claims that the proposed housing scale and massing would be inappropriate.

“There would be no serious impact on the living conditions of nearby residents, the nearest existing dwelling

being as much as 200 metres from the closest proposed house.

“I have no doubt that matters such as landscaping details, drainage, parking provision and light pollution could all be dealt with by conditions on a permission if the more fundamental difficulties did not exist.”

However, he added that it was also clear that some matters favourable to the appeal project – such as drainage etc - weighed insufficiently in the balance to provide the basis for a permission as an acceptable departure from the relevant development plan and other policies.

He concluded:”I appreciate the difficulties that have been experienced with the equestrian centre business and I have given substantial regard to the planning history of the appeal site and its immediate vicinity. However, my assessment is that the project before me does not provide a way forward that is satisfactory in the public interest.

“The appellant acknowledges that there is a degree of policy non-compliance - my view is that it is much greater than he accepts.”