Don’t dismiss our local knowledge

Peter Grant was one of those who criticised the move.
Peter Grant was one of those who criticised the move.

A ‘GRASSROOTS’ forum could be stripped of its powers to rule on vital issues affecting the community.

Glenrothes Area Committee would no longer be able to decide on subjects ranging from the controversial Lomond Quarry to bids to open takeaways under proposals to change the way planning matters are handled.

Fife Council’s Labour-led administration is reviewing the current set-up, with the possibility of one region-wide committee - or three smaller ones taking over decision-making.

But that came under fire from SNP councillors who originally created ther area committee five years ago.

Labour leader Alex Rowley said change was needed to tackle the “economic difficulties and housing shortage facing Fife”, while “ensuring appropriate devolution of decisions to meet local needs.”

But Glenrothes SNP councillor, John Beare - a former Fife planning committee chairman - told the area committee: “This plan is the complete opposite of de-centralisation. If we remove planning from area committees, we would not be here.”

Peter Grant, former council leader, highlighted one of the difficulties which he said could arise if the chsange was made: “I had a nightclub in my ward, but I could be outvoted by councillors from Kirkcaldy,” he explained. “That level of ignorance could come back if we move to a single planning committee.”

Ross Vettraino (SNP), said it would be a “step back “ and added: “I want to see a situation where local elected members are held accountable. ‘‘

Labour councillor, Altany Craik, also expressed reservations, adding: “I like the local element of getting to consider things that affect our wards directly.”

But, his party colleagues believed that would be maintained under the new system.

Councillor Kay Morrison said: “A single planning committee has merit and consistency, but the number of applications facing it would be colossal. It might be that we need a larger number of committees, not just one.

“My view is to go to the three planning committees that we previously had serving central, west and north-east Fife. It would be useful if Glenrothes Area Committee could focus on other matters.”

Committee chairman, Bill Kay, whose casting vote carried a motion to that effect, highlighted concerns about lack of local knowledge when councillors were asked to decide on issues out with their own areas.

The decision and those of the other area committees will be taken into account when a final ruling is made on the issue.