Planning Committee rejects plans for Abbey Park

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Plans for a new budget hotel and student accommodation (picture) in an upmarket estate built over the last few years on the former St Leonards field and the site of the old St Andrews Memorial Hospital in St Andrews, were rejected by the North East Fife Planning Committee at its meeting on Wednesday (19th).

The planning application attracted 273 letters of support, 131 letters of objection and a petition against it with 279 signatures.

Existing residents of the estate, mostly retirees, welcomed the decision to reject the application from Robertson Property for a 90-bed hotel and accommodation for 100 students.

Dr Sandra Stewart, spokesperson for the Abbey Park Residents’ Action Group, said residents’ quality of life would have been ruined by the development had it not been rejected by the Planning Committee.

She said: “For all of us who have moved in there, and paid significant amounts of money for our properties, our lives would have been destroyed. All along I felt very, very passionately that this was nothing short of corporate greed. We got the result we hoped for, this is a great result for local democracy. ”She also urged the developer to engage with the community to try to find a solution. “I think if we all sat down together we could devise something that would suit everyone”.

When the wider Abbey Park development was first proposed, it was for 150 residential units and a 47-bed hotel in Abbey Park House, since demolished. There are now 246 homes and housing units designated for those with special needs (defined as aged 55 and above)

Council planning officials recommended approval, but councillors voted to reject the scheme on the grounds of over-development and residential amenity.

Cupar councillor Tony Miklinksi, who moved for rejection of the planning application, said, “The tone of the site has been set by what is there. It is tranquil, peaceful. The tone is elderly, the tone is special needs. “Everything else to be decided here has to take that as the background.”

He said erecting both a hotel and student accommodation there, with people likely to be coming and going late at night, would “raise some very serious problems”.

St Andrews councillor Brian Thomson, who did not take part in the decision because of a potential conflict of interest, having two family members resident at Abbey Park, said “I’ve been very disappointed as to how the Abbey Park area has been developed, and I welcome the decision taken by the Committee”.

“The site should have been a fantastic opportunity to provide a significant amount of desperately needed new affordable homes.  However, only 29 affordable homes have been delivered, with the developers securing planning permission for expensive retirement flats, and private student accommodation, which avoided the standard requirement for 30% of the units to be affordable”.

“The development of the overall site is an example of the planning system failing to deliver, and it’s ended up maximising profits for developers, rather than providing what’s best for the community.  Whilst the developer could appeal the decision, I hope instead that the company takes into account the views expressed by the Committee and local residents and proposes something more compatible with the surrounding area”.

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