One last bid to save hovercraft plans

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A LAST-MINUTE campaign to urge Edinburgh to reconsider its decision not to approve plans which could bring about a cross Forth hovercraft service has been launched in Fife.

Letters appealing for a re-think on the long-awaited outcome on plans lodged by Stagecoach for a terminal and slipway for the 15-minute link between Kirkcaldy and Portobello were sent out from all of the political parties on Fife Council, as well as Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance, who said it would be a “missed opportunity.”

They have been sent to both the City of Edinburgh Council, whose development management sub committee of the planning committee last week voted not to proceed with the plans to allow the infrastructure necessary to take forward the hovercraft proposals, and to Brian Souter, chief executive of the Stagecoach group which first floated the idea of a cross forth service five years ago.

The decision came despite a recommendation by officials to grant the application subject to a number of conditions.

A two week trial of the hovercraft was piloted in summer 2007 when more than 32,000 people flocked to try it out for themselves.

In her letter to Edinburgh Council, Councillor Alice Soper, chairman of the Kirkcaldy Area Committee, which just two weeks ago recommended a five-year approval of the hovercraft terminal and slipway plans to allow Stagecoach to develop its plans, said: “Successful cross-Forth trials were held a few years ago, with the public being very supportive of such a service, both for leisure and commuting purposes. Indeed, local Portobello residents also told us at that time they were also supportive, as they too shared these views.

“A journey of just less than 20 minutes, as opposed to at least an hour to drive into the capital, would help significantly to divert commuters from using cars, relieving congestion and pollution. Opportunities for increasing tourism would also be increased, benefiting both Fife and Lothian in a variety of ways.”

She highlighted the Portsmouth to Isle of Wight hovercraft service which was running very successfully without noise problems and urged them to reconsider.

Councillor Torrance said a lot of time and effort had been put in by both Stagecoach and Fife Council to progress the plans.

“I have written to Brian Souter urging him to appeal this decision, and I will we writing to Edinburgh Council this week to ask them to reconsider.

“It is very important for the redevelopment of the west of Kirkcaldy and would also bring great benefits to the rundown Portobello area. A major commercial interest like this would help lead the way in the regeneration of both areas.”

Councillor George Kay who represents the Invertiel area on Fife Council said he too had written to Brian Souter urging him to reconsider his decision not to appeal the recommendation.

“I too will be writing to Edinburgh stressing all the benefits this venture could bring to both Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh,” he said.