Frustration as Cupar retail park plans given green light

The land next to Tesco.
The land next to Tesco.

The decision to give the green light to controversial plans for a new retail park in Cupar has been criticised.

Councillors on the North East Fife Planning Committee approved the plans for the seven unit retail park last week, despite objections from local residents and groups, including the community council and Sustainable Cupar.

The retail park will be built on the site of a former garage on South Road, next to Tesco.

Some councillors at the meeting raised concerns about the impact the retail park could have on the high street.

Cllr Jonny Tepp described it as “another nail in the coffin” of the high street, while Cllr Linda Holt said they did not want to do anything that would “threaten” it.

But councillors were reminded that the site already received planning permission in 2017 for a similar development. They were also told that it was “unfair to vote in a way that would stop other competitors coming into the market”.

Steven Paterson, solicitor, advised the north east planning committee that they should take material consideration of the previous plans that were granted for the site, adding: “It would be very perverse for the committee to overturn the previous permission and move to refuse this.

“The evidence there is not enough to substantially refuse. The appeals council would lose and be liable for the costs. It would be taken to have been unreasonable conduct.”

However, Cllr Bill Porteous, seconded by Cllr Jane Ann Liston, were still concerned about the traffic flow in the area, and made a motion to accept with the condition of further transport reports.

But councillors voted 11 to two to accept the amendment for the planning application as it stood.

The decision to approve the plans has been criticised by Sustainable Cupar and the chair of the town’s community council.

The environmental group had concerns about the design of the roundabout junction, believing it could have a “serious negative effect on those walking and cycling”.

“I am deeply unimpressed with the performance of Fife Council in determining this application,” said Gordon Pay, Sustainable Cupar trustee.

“Literally, in the report to the committee, the safety of our children going to school, and of cyclists generally, was of a lower priority to Fife Council than was requiring more parking spaces at the retail park.”

Gina Logan, chair of Cupar Community Council, also criticised the decision to approve the proposal.

She said she has doubted her reason for becoming a community councillor because of the decision.

“We, the 18 community councillors, all live in Cupar and have opposed this development from the onset because of the damage it will do our town centre, which is already struggling,” she said.

“It is on a very busy main road into the town and, of more concern, it is on the main pedestrian route to Castlehill Primary School – three very good reasons for objecting to it.

“Some will argue that we need more shops to keep people in Cupar. I agree, but there are plenty empty sites within the town, and this would be more beneficial to the town centre.

“It is therefore rather worrying that all our concerns were brushed aside.

“What part then do we, the community council, play in all this – apparently none.

“We do not appear to understand the needs of the people of Cupar, the people we represent, but councillors and Fife officials, who do not even live in the town, appear to know better.

“Our community council took time to contact the councillors expressing our valid concerns – what a waste of our time.”

The full letter from Gina Logan can be read on the letters page.

A spokesperson for the applicant said they were “delighted” that Fife Council had approved the proposals and they hope to be on site by spring 2019. The occupier line-up is currently being finalised.