Council ‘handcuffed’ by planning rules

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LEVENMOUTH councillors and local authority officers are pressing for a change in planning rules.

The controversial inclusion of two local sites for potential housing development in the Mid Fife Local Plan have prompted the view that Scottish Government Reporters have too much power.

Over the last 20 years or so, through public hearings and planning appeals, several attempts to zone the large field at Cupar Road in Leven and another field at The Temple in Windygates, for residential projects, have been repelled.

Both locations, however, were recommended by a Reporters’ Examination for inclusion in the Local Plan, adopted last week by Fife Council’s planning committee.

However, despite much opposition, from planners and councillors alike, members were told by professional planning staff and development service bosses: “The Reporter’s recommendations are largely binding on the council.”

The Plan still has to go through several more stages of inspection and consultation before final approval, so no action is likely soon.

But Leven councillor Ally Hunter pledged “the almightiest amount of scrutiny that’s physically possible” if any development applications came before the authority.

He said: “The local communities that will be affected by these developments are angry, feel let down and dismayed at the decision to include these sites in the plan. Unsurprisingly, I agree with them.”

He added: “I am aware of the handcuffs that have effectively been placed on this planning committee and this council.”

“Developer-led activity to plug a perceived short-term housing gap does not serve our communities well.”

Cllr Hunter urged the council to make representations to the Scottish Government “to redress what might be perceived as democratic deficit of the over-riding powers of the Reporter”.

Cllr David Alexander said the public didn’t understand how little say it ultimately had in public inquiries and planning appeals.

The decision was disappinting, he added, after so many years of resistance to plans for housing at Cupar Road and The Temple.

Cllr Alexander said there were many other viable housing sites in Levenmouth, he said, in addition to an area already earmarked between Percival Road and Buckhaven High School, for around 1400 properties.