Pandering to public opinion claims housebuilder after controversial Aberdour rejection

The local MP has described the residents campaign as a case of  "David versus Goliath".
The local MP has described the residents campaign as a case of "David versus Goliath".

A major house builder has accused planners of pandering to public opinion following a decision to reject two new housing developments in Aberdour.

Cala Homes’ plan to build 85 houses on land off Mains Street in the picturesque Fife coastal village, as well as Campion Homes application to build 80 new homes at Nether Bouprie Farm, were emphatically rejected by planners yesterday.

The controversial proposals atracted a staggering 1500 objections from residents who have fought for a number of years against plans to build in the village.

In an unprecedented amount of objections seldom witnessed in Fife before, residents claim that the proposals would have a huge negative impact on village life, local schooling, parking and traffic.

A spokesman for Cala Management Ltd said: “Naturally, we are disappointed by the decision. There is clear need and demand for new housing across the local housing market area, of which Aberdour is part, that is not being met through existing land supply.

“Throughout the process we liaised with council planning officials to ensure that the proposal addressed all technical matters, and this concluded that there was no legitimate planning reason to refuse the application, other than it appears local public opinion.

“This decision represents a bad decision for all of those looking for a new home in the area, whether it be first time buyers or those on the waiting list for affordable housing. These needs will now continue to go unmet.

“We will now carefully consider our options before we decide what our next steps will be.”

Fife Council planning officers had advised to reject the Campion Homes application but approve Cala’s Main Street development, despite the site having been previously rejected from the FifePlan - the council’s land allocation agreed to meet the Government’s housing targets by a government appointed reporter following an appeal.

While yesterday’s decisions mark a stunning victory for beleaguered campaigners, they fully expect at least one of the companies to lodge an appeal to the Scottish Government in a bid to overturn these latest decisions.

And they have hit back themselves, claiming the planning process is heavily loaded in favour of developers.

“I think that any community that has been under this amount of pressure knows that the planning process leans heavily in favour of the developer and with that in mind we are expecting an appeal by Cala Homes regarding the the Main Street refusal,” said Ian Fleming, chairman of Aberdour Community Council.

“We know have no more say in the matter but we await the developer’s next move.

“The one thing that was absolutely clear is that people must register their opposition and voice their concerns.

“Thankfully, on this occasion those many genuine concerns have been listed to.

“There’s been over 1500 objections to these two developments and that has counted for a great deal.”

Meanwhile Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, welcomed the decisions adding: “Cala’s relentless pursuit of this site was absolutely typified by its attempts, through an email sent by its PR agency to all councillors, to undermine the Residents Group and my own attempts to ensure a level playing field.

“The fact they hired a PR company to protect their interests simply gives further weight to the call by Scottish Labour for reform of the planning system.

“A decision to build houses based on housing shortage should be evidenced by sound facts - not on old data which in only two weeks’ time may be disputed by SESplan 2.

“Furthermore, even if housing need is soundly established, it’s imperative the right site is chosen for development. The Government reporter previously threw Cala’s application out for those very reasons – and if an appeal is forthcoming, I would hope that – in this case - history will repeat itself.

“It really is David v Goliath. Here David won. Let’s hope they can enjoy their victory without further threat of bulldozers.”