Scottish wildcat claims dismissed as Fife councillors throw out rural housing plan

A bid to build five homes on the edge of a Fife village has failed to win over councillors who rubbished the "disingenuous" claim it would help Scottish wildcats.

Developer Tim Esparon had hoped to secure preliminary permission for five private dwellings to the east of the B941 at Peat Inn, near Largoward, after Fife Council planning officers refused his plans at the end of last year.

After his proposals were binned, Mr Esparon lodged an appeal with Fife's Planning Review Body, and supplied extra information that claimed the introduction of trees such as Scots pines, Norway spruces and Douglas firs would encourage wildlife to live in the area, including Scottish wildcats.

However, Scotland's wildcat population has dwindled to the point they are only found in the Scottish Highlands.

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Scottish wildcats

And that led to councillors branding the supporting statements as "disingenuous".

Cllr Graham Ritchie (Conservative, Leven Kennoway and Largo) said: "I find the presentation by the developer a little bit disingenuous.

£They've illustrated Scottish wildcats as [a means of] supporting it, but there are no Scottish wildcats in Fife. Not one.

"I find that a little bit disingenuous. They've also mislabelled a picture of a newt as a dragonfly [in their supporting statement] - it's a bit of a nonsense, and I'm disappointed in a developer bringing that to us as though we wouldn't know, or wouldn't pay attention to it."

A 3D visualisation of the housing which councillors rejected

Scottish wildcats, also known as Highland tigers, have declined rapidly in number over the last century due to loss of habitat and are now considered a critically endangered species.

Mr Esparon had originally proposed building five 333 sq m homes and using the remains of an old farmstead to build a feature wall.

The ruined building - which has not been occupied for decades - was the cornerstone of his argument that the Peat Inn holding was "brownfield" land - the kind ripe for development.

Case officer William Shand told the meeting on Monday: "The applicant argues that it is brownfield land and argues development of the site would provide a betterment and improve the landscape quality of the area, and that there is no detriment because they are providing landscaping and greenspace."

However, councillors have agreed with planners' original verdict: that the plot had been "re-naturalised" as green space because the aged building had fallen into a state of ruin over several years.

A total of 24 Peat Inn residents had also objected on the grounds of road safety fears, the scale of the development in the small hamlet and the additional risk of flooding they alleged the development would have created.

The review body voted to uphold the refusal of the plans on the grounds that they did not meet the criteria for building in the countryside and had not adequately considered road safety at the junction of the B941.

Cllr David Barratt, convener of the Fife Planning Review Body, summed up: "Having gone through it all, we find ourselves agreeing with everything the officers said."

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