This week I attended a standing room only public meeting in Dalgety Bay Church where hundreds of people packed out the hall to express their concern and frustration that developers are once again trying to get planning approval to build houses on land to the East of the village that has time and again been rejected for housing development and is viewed locally as being very much part of the cherished local countryside.
I have a meeting this week with the Executive Director of Planning and Environmental Services at Fife Council to discuss the many issues that seem to be arising as a result of the interest in developing this site.
From what I have read the developer seems to be trying to make a big deal that the housing land supply for the Fife Plan area has a shortfall of nearly 8,000 houses. It was suggested to me that the developer was likely to put in a planning application and would then hope that Fife Council would not be in a position to consider such an application within the four months allowed which would lead to the developer appealing the application to the Scottish Government Reporter on the basis of non determination and making the argument that as there is a shortage of land supply for new housing in the line with the Scottish Government targets. This it was suggested would be the most likely way of the developer getting agreement to build houses in the countryside of Dalgety Bay, ie by avoiding Fife Council and going straight to the Scottish Government.
When I suggested this to a planner in Fife Council he did advise me that considering such an application that was such a significant departure from the local plan may prove difficult within four months.
This cannot be allowed to happen and the first absolute guarantee I am seeking from Fife Council at the highest level is that any planning application submitted by any developer to build houses on this land in the country side that is such a significant departure from the local development plan will be dealt with in the timeframe avoiding any risk of an appeal for non determination. This is a guarantee that must be able to be given and if it cannot be given then I will be raising this matter in the Parliament and with Government.
I will also be exploring all the issues around the strategic land allocations and Fife Plan allocations to get to the bottom of any potential problems and what solutions may be available and will consider any action I need to then take.
Dalgety Bay and Hillend Community Council have also approached Shell as they are the ones selling the land and as I understand it they have been told these fields are surplus to requirement. I also understand that this land and the wider area is jointly owned by both Shell and Exxon and I am now exploring all the options to engage with these companies to pick up on the point the Community Council has made which is if the land is surplus then agree to the community taking ownership of the land of community and leisure purposes. I have also raised these issues direct with the local MP Gordon Brown and asked for his support and advice on dealing with both Shell and Exxon.
What was absolutely clear from the Public Meeting is that the community of Dalgety Bay will not sit back and simply allow this land in the country side to be developed. I will continue to post up dates on my website of any progress with these issues as it happens.