Fife planners criticised for ‘confusing’ jargon-packed 20,000 word report

Fife Council planners have been criticised for their "confusing and problematic" report recommending a cohort of new affordable homes for approval.

By Jon Brady, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 12th March 2021, 4:35 pm

Councillors struggled with the paper prepared by officers on 30 new social homes in Gauldry, which ran to over 20,000 words and was packed with technical jargon.

It related to a bid by Kingdom Housing Association for 30 new social homes south of Balgove Road in the village, on agricultural land that was not earmarked for development in Fife s local development plan, known as FIFEplan.

Planning officers supported the bid despite it not meeting requirements for adequate garden space - but Kingdom's plans were opposed by 17 locals including Balmerino, Gauldry, Kilmany and Logie Community Council.

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The proposed development at Gauldry

One of the most worrying aspects of the plan was the scale of the development compared to Balgove Road itself, which is a single-track road with few passing opportunities.

Cllr Tony Miklinski (Con, Cupar) branded the paper a "complicated and difficult read" - and took issue with the recommendation to approve once he had been able to decipher its contents.

He told the North East Planning Committee earlier this week: "We've got a greenfield site and the developer wants to build so intensively that the gardens are too small.

"We're being asked to relax the recommendations on this occasion but we have been asked to 'relax on this occasion' multiple times. I wish I'd been keeping a scorecard.

"There needs to be something that says this development is particularly important or urgent that overcomes these objections. What we're being asked to do is to ignore the community and that makes me uncomfortable."

SImilarly, Cllr David MacDiarmid (SNP, Howe of Fife and Tay Coast) was concerned about the "really technical" report prepared by planning officers - but ultimately supported the plans.

"I can't recall seeing anything like this laid out before for such a small development and I find this really complicated," he said. "I have no criticism of the case officer, but I think for the ordinary layman it might be problematic."

At 38 pages long, the Gauldry report for 30 homes was almost as long as a paper presented to councillors in January on the 681-bed Albany Park student accommodation planned for St Andrews, and longer than other comparable papers on small housing developments.

However, council solicitor Steven Paterson said it was acceptable, adding: "I would not expect a report to be less than what we have here. The case officer has come to a firm view that there is a proven need (for housing in the area)."

Development management boss Alastair Hamilton defended the report and its recommendations, adding: “There is a shortfall and a policy which makes provision to consider and approve housing sites for affordable housing outwith settlement boundaries."

Five councillors voted in favour of a motion tabled by Cllr Tim Brett (Lib Dem, Tay Bridgehead) and seconded by Cllr Miklinski to refuse the plans.

However, nine voted in favour of Cllr Jonny Tepp's (Lib Dem, Tay Bridgehead) amendment, seconded by Cllr Karen Marjoram (SNP, Cupar) to approve the plans in line with the report.

The homes will be built to the Passivhaus standard that are highly energy efficient. A derelict house at 30 Balgrove Road demolished to create an access into the new neighbourhood.

Seventeen conditions were attached.

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