Strategic development plan paying ‘lip service’ to St Andrews

Ian Goudie.
Ian Goudie.

ST Andrews Community Council has accused TAYplan - the proposed Strategic Development Plan, whose area includes north east Fife - of failing to address the town’s main problems and offering nothing in relation to the principal issues it faces.

In a hard-hitting response to the consultation document, the community organisation has objected to various aspects of the proposals and has compared its inadequacies to the much maligned Fife Structure Plan.

The Scottish Government is introducing Strategic Development Plans for the city regions of the four largest cities in Scotland and St Andrews lies in the Dundee city region. It covers north Fife, Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross.

The new TAYplan for the Dundee city region will take the place of the Fife Structure Plan as the strategic plan covering St Andrews.

Vice-chairman of the community council, Dr Ian Goudie, told the Citizen: ”At one stage we certainly hoped that a new planning authority would seize the opportunity for a new approach to strategic planning which was more closely aligned to public sentiment.

“Sadly, the approach of TAYplan to St Andrews is no better than that of the recent Fife Structure Plan which many felt set new records for the disregard of local opinion. While we have encouraged fellow residents of the town to respond to this consultation, it will be unsurprising if the widespread sense of anger is replaced by the increasing sense of futility in responding to planning consultations.

“There are so many indications that planning officials have already decided that they will not budge on substantive questions and democratic controls appear so weak. The views of the major developer organisations that operate in the town are heeded, but there has been serial neglect for years of residents’ views.

In the strongly worded response, Dr Goudie claimed that parts of the document pay lip-service to the effects of the recession and is prepared to acknowledge that its effects may last until 2018-19.

He pointed out that there is little recognition, however, that the fall-out of the recession - such as the recent decision to close RAF Leuchars - may have more long-lasting effects and that the main calculations of housing numbers appear to have been carried out in late 2009.

He said that the broad parameters set by the Plan seemed to differ little from those that would have been chosen before the recession.

He added: ”While officials can certainly claim that the new Scottish Planning Policy encourages the removal of constraints to development, TAYplan does so with wild abandon - to the point where even developers may feel they are being asked to operate under too anarchic a regime.

“Regrettably, there seem to be even fewer politicians with the courage to challenge the current ethos that planning is merely a hindrance to economic growth and development than there were prepared to challenge the excesses of the Murdoch press, and again a heavy price will be paid. It is, therefore, hard to know how best to characterise the proposed TAYplan.

“To the extent that it denies the recession, should it be dubbed the yesterTAYplan, or does the laxity of the regime it proposes to introduce make it NAYplan at all?”

Accusing it of failing to address the town’s main problems, Dr Goudie said that in self-congratulatory mode, TAYplan declares ‘this Plan’s approach is bold and clear on shaping better quality places.’

And he countered: ”However, it offers nothing on the prime issues affecting the quality of St Andrews. Far from being bold, it runs away from the issue of affordable housing, with the Housing Needs and Demand Assessment declaring that affordable housing targets are non-strategic.

“Lacking the courage to address its own self-contradictions, it propounds in general terms the desirability of giving priority to brownfield sites before requiring that even more of St Andrews strategic housing should go on greenfield land than was specified by the widely disliked Fife Structure Plan.

“Fife Council has been required since 2002 to introduce a green belt for the town, and TAYplan does retain that requirement, but the gradual weakening of planning controls means that even that will not be the silver bullet that might at one time have been envisaged.

‘‘We commended last year the emphasis in the TAYplan Main Issues Report on reducing the carbon footprint, but TAYPlan fails to even take the basic step of safeguarding a route for the proposed rail link to the town.”