Residents on a Thornton housing estate were left shocked and angry after receiving a letter from a house builder claiming £74,000 for “loss of earnings” because they objected to a planning application.
Nine residents on the Lochty Meadows estate lodged objections with Fife Council against plans by Raith Developments to build 12 flats adjacent to their homes.
The application was refused by Fife Council on September 14 because a mechanical ventilation system for the homes would not provide “an adequate standard of residential amenity” for the homes. The second reason given was because the flats were considered “out of scale and character” with the surrounding properties.
However the householders couldn’t believe it when the builders, Raith Developments Ltd. delivered letters to those who had objected claiming £74,100 from each of them as compensation to the company for loss of profit for the flats.
The letter, signed by Gordon Powell of Raith Developments, claimed that each of the residents had breached two of the terms of a contract they had signed as part of their housing missives. And it threatened that if they did not pay the amount within 21 days they would “instruct legal proceedings to commence immediately” against them for the money.
One angry householder contacted the Gazette to complain against the company’s heavy-handed actions.
“I am 74 and I have a neighbour who is 80, and this type of threatening correspondence is beyond belief,” he said.
“I contacted my lawyer immediately, who said it was nonsense and would be laughed out of court.
“We were invited to lodge objections against this and we did so because of a noise issue relating to the A92 on our doorstep dating back a number of years.
“We didn’t make the decision to refuse the application, but we have been given these letters demanding this huge sum of money. It’s just beyond belief.”
The man also contacted his local councillor Ross Vettriano who said: “Like this resident, I am lost for words.
‘‘ I understand that the issue between Raith Developments and those who objected to the planning application is a civil matter and falls to be dealt with by the objectors on that basis, but I think that the Council has a locus in that it can advise the householder and the other objectors about their position in terms of the Town and Country Planning legislation.”
Passing the correspondence to Steve Grimmond, Fife Council’s chief executive, for his advice, he added: “It seems to me, irrespective of what it may say in the missives, that members of the public cannot be held accountable for a decision taken by the Council – an autonomous corporate body.
‘‘It would be good, therefore, if councils, when clarifying the position in terms of the planning legislation, would comment on that position as well.” When contacted by the Gazette, Mr Powell declined to comment.