Watchdog called in over Cupar North plans

Ceri Williams beside one of the fields off Balgarvie Road, earmarked for some of the Cupar North housing. Pic: Dave Scott.
Ceri Williams beside one of the fields off Balgarvie Road, earmarked for some of the Cupar North housing. Pic: Dave Scott.
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Scotland’s local government watchdog is being asked to investigate claims of maladministration by Fife Council over Cupar North.

The Ombudsman is to step in after the council was branded “a joke” by opponents of the controversial plan, which would see more than 1400 houses and other amenities built on farm land to the north of the town.

The application for planning permission in principle will not now be considered until next year, having been postponed while some issues in the developers’ masterplan are clarified.

But the campaign group claims this should have been done years ago and that the council has contravened its own policy by failing to carry out the proper assessment of the site before the application was lodged.

In particular the group is concerned about the impact on Cupar’s sewerage infrastructure and wants to know why it emerged only recently that the system is already at capacity.

A spokesman for the campaign group, Ceri Williams, said he had written to Fife Council’s chief executive, Steve Grimmond, with an official complaint about maladministration by planning officials.

He said that the local authority’s own policy calls for a thorough site assessment leading to a business plan so that developers – in this case a consortium comprising Persimmon Homes, Headon Developments and Vico Properties – know what they will need to provide, how much it costs and how long it will take.

But he says that despite the idea for Cupar North being mooted a decade ago, no such robust assessment has ever been carried out.

“It seems little more than commonsense to know beforehand how much infrastructure will be required for any proposed development,” said Mr Williams.

“I’ve stated for 10 years that Cupar North was little more than a ‘pin in a map’ exercise. Planning officials should have carried out research into the viability of the development before declaring it a strategic development area. It is just a joke.”

In a reply to Mr Williams, Fife Council solicitor June Barrie said she had carried out an investigation and had not found any evidence of maladministration.

She said that the assessment and consultation with key agencies had been carried out by planners in accordance with legal requirements.

“It was not necessary that a detailed assessment of the availability of infrastructure be carried out,” said Ms Barrie.

“Such detailed assessments would be carried out in master planning following the approval of the local development plan or through the planning application process.”