Housebuilder accuses Fife Council of ‘being closed for business’

Sandy Adam
Sandy Adam

A housebuilder has registered its dissatisfaction with the planning service at Fife Council following the rejection of a housing development in Dalgety Bay.

Springfield Properties had been working with Fife planning officials to move the Ridgeway development, which proposes 56 new homes including 14 affordable homes and a commercial building, forward for over two and half years.

It claimed the council’s planning department had “put barriers in our way from the start” and added: “We think Fife is closed to business.”

Fife Council said Springfield’s plans had “failed to satisfy policies” and that the proposal was “contrary to the development plan”.

Springfield claimed planning consent was refused without any discussion, despite the fact there were jobs at stake.

Springfield chairman Sandy Adam said: “It was a predetermined meeting. We are ready to provide inward investment to build affordable and private homes and a purpose built commercial building. At the moment our investment is not welcome. We think Fife is closed to business.

“The attitude of Fife Council flies in the face of Scottish Government policy. It’s about time they explained why it is blocking high quality jobs and affordable homes for Dalgety Bay.

“We are very dissatisfied with the whole process. The planning department have put barriers in our way from the start. The process has lacked continuity, with three different planners assigned to the case, and a tree preservation order being applied to the site half-way through the application.

“Initially planners criticised our urban design, so we withdrew our original application and submitted a new one based on planning officials’ feedback. Despite this they came to a decision to recommend refusal, saying loss of employment land would undermine Dalgety Bay as a sustainable mixed community.”

Mr Adam added: “It is ironic that the council’s shilly-shallying has led to the loss of leading Scottish technology company, Exterity, from the site, who had outgrown the existing building.

“The plans which have been refused include purpose built accommodation for Exterity and its growing workforce. This Scottish company provides high quality, skilled employment for 80 people. It has been forced to move from Ridgeway to alternate accommodation that will support their aim to double their workforce over the next five years.

“Our experience shows the council’s obsession with employment land is misplaced. We have had this site advertised for commercial use for five years and there has been very little demand. With a little vision this whole area could become home to hi-tech ‘clean’ employers, with homes for employees on the doorstep. Instead, over the last two and half years the site has become an eyesore.”

Exterity director Simon Ross added: “This decision is regrettable. Exterity believes strongly that the type of accommodation Springfield offered to build for us is in much demand and unless the council enables the building of such accommodation, high tech business such as Exterity will need to look further afield to enable their businesses to grow.”

Springfield plan to refer the case to Scotland’s chief planner as an example of local authorities putting barriers in the way of development at the cost of jobs, new homes and economic growth.

Mr Adam concluded: “We will be writing to social justice secretary Alex Neil to highlight this case as part of the Scottish Government’s independent review of the Scottish planning system.”

Responding to the claims, Kevin Treadwell, lead officer of Development Management at Fife Council said the local authority “is certainly open for business” and that the Planning Service is committed to working with developers to ensure that Fife’s towns, villages and countryside are developed in the best possible way to meet the needs of businesses, communities and local people.

He said: “Fife Council is keen to work with Springfield Properties, and Robin Presswood, our head of economy, planning and employability services, has asked to meet with representatives.

“A planning application by Springfield Properties PLC for a commercial unit and 56 houses was refused by the west planning committee after Councillors and Officers took all relevant factors into account, and found that the proposed development failed to satisfy policies. The Committee decided, ultimately, that this was not the right development for the site.

“Council Officers made it clear to the applicant at a very early stage that the proposal was contrary to the development plan, and continued to express concerns during the application’s assessment. Concerns include loss of employment land, potential impacts on neighbouring businesses and the quality of the housing environment in such close proximity to an industrial estate.

“After visiting the site and full consideration of the application, including assessment of local housing need, the West Planning Committee supported the Officers’ view that there was a need to protect business land from being lost to other forms of development, particularly because of the shortage of business land in this area.”

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