LESLEY LAIRD MP has said she fears Aberdour residents will be stuck in a "perpetual groundhog day" after Cala Homes announced it was appealing a decision to refuse its application to build 85 new homes in the village.

The plans for the site in east Aberdour, off Main Street, were thrown out by members of Fife Council's west planning committee in July along with proposals from Campion Homes to build 80 properties on land beside Nether Bouprie Farm.

Both plans attracted more than 1,500 objections between them with concerns including issues with drainage, road safety, traffic congestion, loss of views, pressure on the local primary school, the “unacceptable burden” on the health service, and that the village would be increased in size by 17 per cent by the two developments.

Campion has since appealed to the Scottish Government reporter and Cala have now decided to do the same.
Cala Homes (East) planning manager Steven Cooper said they came to the decision after careful consideration.

“There is a recognised critical shortage of homes across Fife," he said.

“The head of planning agreed that the proposals were fully in accordance with the Local Development Plan (LDP).

“The people at the sharp end and who lose out most here are existing local people who want to remain in the village but cannot find a home – as well as those on the waiting lists, who are in desperate housing need. 

“The needs of these families do not appear to have been given any weight in the council’s refusal decision.

“We’re hoping that approval of this appeal can help to ease some of the pressure in the local market and meet some of the pent-up demand that exists. We’ve been inundated with requests for more information on the proposed homes and potential buyers seeking to reserve plots.” 

Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy MP Ms Laird said Cala's decision to appeal was disappointing but not surprising.

"This has become nothing less than a war of attrition and weary Aberdour residents fully expected an appeal to happen," she said. "After all, they witnessed exactly the same process with Cala’s previous proposal.

“But that’s precisely the point. We desperately need planning reform because, as planning laws stand, there’s no incentive for developers to give up a fight because they’re only too aware that communities have zero rights of appeal.

“I hope history will repeat itself in one respect only – that the reporter will throw this appeal out as it did the last one but, given the determination of developers to build in Aberdour, I fear residents will remain stuck in a perpetual 'Groundhog Day' campaign.

“Labour has put forward proposals to reform the Planning Bill. The Scottish Government should accept those proposals and redress the inequality in the current system by giving communities a right of appeal in controversial planning decisions – and they must do so now.”

Aberdour Community Council chairperson Iain Fleming told the Press: "Obviously it is more of the same. It just seems incredibly wearing that a community like this is having to continuously put up with this. 

"All we can do as a community council is make our representations to the reporter, as we have with the recent Campion appeal, and then buckle down and await the reporter's considerations."

Councillor Alice McGarry, convener of the west planning committee, said they agreed unanimously to refuse Cala Homes' application as it was contrary to a number of Fife Council policies including development in the countryside. 

She added: "We felt that the reason given for the planning officer’s recommendation of approval, ie a shortage in housing land supply, did not outweigh all the other considerations."