New estate of affordable homes approved for north-east Fife village

A new estate of 30 affordable homes has been approved for a north east Fife village despite concerns over the use of gas boilers.

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 8:01 pm
Plans have been approved

The Newport Property Development Company, run by Dundee businessman John Gibson, has been given permission to build the dwellings on land at East Farm to the side of Main Street in Springfield, near Cupar.

Its 30 homes, a combination of two, three and four bed semi-detached homes and adapted bungalows, will be built for social let on a combination of vacant disused land and an area earmarked for housing, with Fife Council appointed as landlord post-completion.

Newport contends that the mix of houses was "much needed" for the local authority - but the plans were met with some local resistance.

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Around a dozen local residents, together with Springfield Community Council, claimed Newport's proposal would turn the village into a "dumping ground" for social tenants. Housing officers justify the allocation with figures showing there are 104 people wanting a Springfield council house.

The community council also objected on the grounds that the homes were not future-proofed with a more sustainable form of heat generation than gas boilers, which are set to be outlawed from 2025 in new-build homes.

However, Newport says it will build the homes to a "fabric first" standard with heavy insulation to minimise the need to use heating at all, along with solar panels on the roof for a source of environmentally friendly electricity.

The concerns over continuing to build homes with fossil fuel-burning boilers were shared by SNP Cupar councillor Karen Marjoram, who fears that any subsequent changes in the law that may outlaw gas boilers altogether could cost the council dear when it comes to replacing them.

She told the north east Fife planning committee today [Wednesday August 25]: "I totally accept the 'fabric-first design', etc, but I have recently had an air source heat pump put into my house and it was a huge disruption.

"Even though my house is only 16 years old the modern pipes had to be ripped out and replaced so that was all the floors up and all the rest of it.

"What we don't want to happen is that if there's a legislation change in the next 10 or so years or whatever, that it is difficult to retrofit things like an air source heat pump.

"We really need to make sure when they're built they should be built to suit modern technology or the greener, non-carbon based stuff in the future. I think it's really important."

She was backed by SNP Howe of Fife and Tay Coast rep David MacDiarmid, who said her concerns were not being viewed "seriously.”

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He feels the idea of approving of gas boiler-heated homes clashes with the council's long-term environment goals, including its declaration of a climate emergency in September 2019.

Cllr MacDiarmid added: "We could be doing things that would save us money in the future but I'm not hearing that we are - because it's not current policy."

Defending the recommendation to approve, council solicitor Steven Paterson said policy could not be invented "on the hoof" and that there was no presumption against gas boilers in the current development plan - the blueprint against which all planning applications are judged.

Branding the climate emergency declaration a "corporate decision" rather than a planning one, Paterson added: "We're dealing with a planning application that has to be dealt with within a certain framework.

"I hear what Cllr MacDiarmid is saying but there is a process for this policy and certain requirements to be done legally.

"We cannot make policy like this on the hoof without consultation and environmental assessments."

The plans were otherwise agreed by the committee as submitted, with conditions attached to limit the use of the homes to social let and to ensure the development meets all council standards.

Access to a series of lockups at the entrance to the new estate has also been assured by means of an additional condition.

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