Councillors put planning bid for yoga yurt in Fife countryside on hold
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Fife West and Central Planning committee discussed the future of Lisa Mulube’s yoga business at The Foundry, Charlestown on Wednesday afternoon. It was pitched without council approval a few years ago and the studio has held classes since around 2021.
In a personal planning statement, Ms Mulube said that she was not aware that she needed planning permission. Now, she is seeking retrospective approval for the yurt and part change of use to hold classes and future therapy sessions for members of the public.
However, planning officers took issue with multiple aspects of her application, and recommended that councillors refuse it outright.
“We recommend the application be refused in the interests of sustainable places, by avoiding ad hoc commercial development of a site in the countryside,” a report to committee stated. “In the interests of sustainable places, by avoiding development of an isolated site in the countryside for car dependent commercial uses, and in the interests of road safety.”
They said the development is served by “substandard access arrangements and visibility onto the West Road bringing vehicles into increased conflict with others on the claimed right of way/private road leading to the site.”
Transportation, which was consulted as part of the planning process, objected for these reasons as well.
However, the committee heard about an “eleventh hour agreement” that possibly has saved the yoga studio’s future.
Ms Mulube seems to have struck a deal with the landowner at the C7 junction to improve visibility.
“I have now been able to speak to the estate owners, they confirm they will be able to cut the vegetation back,” Ms Mulube advised planning officers in an email.
Committee members generally seemed minded to approve, especially in light of the last minute, provisional arrangement. They agreed to postpone a decision until the next meeting to finalise the necessary legal agreements for the visibility arrangement.
The committee also had concerns about setting out specific limits on growth and future development.
What did the councillors have to say?
The yoga yurt was the most contentious committee agenda item of the day.
“I thought it was quite difficult to say no to a yurt in the countryside to do yoga in,” Councillor Altany Craik (Labour for Glenrothes West and Kinglassie) said.
Councillor David Barratt (SNP for Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay) dispatched all of the planning authority’s reasons for refusal in a speech before moving to approve the plans.
However, Councillor John Beare (SNP for Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch) thought that the committee needed more time to solidify the 11th agreement and to carefully word planning conditions to protect the area from unlimited expansion of the business.
Councillor David Alexander, Leader of the SNP Opposition, seconded the motion to postpone: “This whole thing scares me to a certain extent. We’re going to have the whole of Fife setting up businesses without planning permission and waiting to get caught.”
Aside from setting a worrying precedent, Cllr Alexander wanted more “black and white” information about Ms Mulube’s arrangement with the landowners about vegetation maintenance at the junction.
“There are too many unknown qualities for me to approve at the moment,” he added.
The committee voted eight to six to postpone a decision until the next meeting.