TWO controversial plans for 165 new homes in Aberdour have been refused by councillors on the west planning committee.

Applications from Cala Homes and Campion Homes, that together attracted more than 1,500 objections, were rejected yesterday afternoon.

Cala had wanted to build around 85 homes on land to the south of Main Street and Campion aimed to erect 80 houses at Nether Bouprie Farm – neither site is in FIFEplan, which sets out what can be built and where.

Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, had called on councillors to refuse the plans and after the meeting she said: “I am delighted for the Aberdour community that their long struggle has, at least for today, been rewarded by a just and fair decision from the west planning committee.

“Cala’s relentless pursuit of this site was absolutely typified by its attempts earlier today, through an email sent by its PR agency to all councillors, to undermine the residents group and my own attempts to ensure a level playing field. 

“The fact they hired a PR company to protect their interests simply gives further weight to the call by Scottish Labour for reform of the planning system. 

“A decision to build houses based on housing shortage should be evidenced by sound facts - not on old data which in only two weeks’ time may be disputed by SESplan 2.

“Furthermore, even if housing need is soundly established, it’s imperative the right site is chosen for development. The Scottish Government reporter previously threw Cala’s application out for those very reasons – and if an appeal is forthcoming, I would hope that – in this case - history will repeat itself. 

“It really is David v Goliath. Today David won. Let’s hope they can enjoy their victory without further threat of bulldozers.”

Objectors – there were 855 for Cala’s plans and 729 for Campion’s – had said approval would lead to capacity problems at Aberdour Primary and Fife Council said “temporary classroom accommodation” in the school grounds would be required for at least 18 months, at a cost of £330,000 to developers.

Concerns were also raised about drainage, road safety, traffic congestion, loss of views, the “unacceptable burden” on the health service in Aberdour, and that the village would be increased in size by 17 per cent.

There was also an issue about a council planner working on the Cala application who was previously employed by Ryden, where he had been a planning consultant for Cala on the same development.

The council said the officer involved had flagged it up as a “potential conflict” and agreed that the case should be reassigned to another planner. Last year, the negative response to Cala’s plans prompted their planning manager, Steven Cooper, to denounce a “vocal and organised anti-development group” in the village.

He said that, during the public consultation, they had been told there was a “real need” in Aberdour for more economically-active families to support trades and local shops.

The Cala site is 5.44 hectares of agricultural land to the east of Aberdour, between Main Street and the Fife Circle railway line.

A committee report acknowledged there was “strong opposition” and the site was not in FIFEplan but said there was a shortfall of available housing land and they had to “consider additional sites over and above those allocated, provided that the relevant policies in the development plan are complied with”.

It recommended approval subject to conditions.

Campion’s proposals attracted similar concerns, as well as objections to do with pollution, speeding and the impact on wildlife, the historic heritage of the village and the conservation area.

The site, north of the A921 Inverkeithing Road and south of the Fife Circle railway line, is 6.9 hectares and the plans included bungalows and two- to five-bedroom homes.

There were 18 letters of support which pointed out that Aberdour needed more affordable homes, and that an influx of new residents will support the village, its community and businesses.

They argued that new homes will assist those wishing to live in the village, especially first-time buyers, and that concerns about pressure on schools, health care, services and utilities was not just a local issue and needed addressed at local government level.

However, in this case, council officers recommended refusal, stating that it would “result in an unjustified development within the countryside regardless of it assisting in addressing a housing land shortage”.

Their report said the proposed development would “undermine the visual character” of Aberdour.