Housing plans which could change the face of Fife’s coastline forever have taken a step forward – although there remains doubt that the blueprint will ever come to fruition.
Members of the region’s central area planning committee have approved an application by trustees of the Wemyss Estate for 40 homes in West Wemyss, with a large section of a dangerous cliff face set to be removed as part of the proposals.
The unstable sandstone cliff led to the closure of a stretch of Fife’s coastal path and forced the occupants of the harbour master’s house from their property more than a decade ago.
But while the ambitious vision for the village has been largely welcomed by councillors and locals alike, the length of time taken so far for the plans to progress have left some sceptical.
Committee chair Councillor Tom Adams, who grew up in the area, noted that planning permission in principle was first obtained in 2010 and urged the applicants to follow through with their intentions.
“I would love it to go ahead, although we won’t be holding our breath because I was born in West Wemyss, I’ve lived there and I know all about the history of the application and Wemyss Estate,” he pointed out.
“Having said that, it’s very ambitious, it’s certainly welcome and if it does go ahead it opens up huge possibilities for opening up the harbour, getting the Belvedere Hotel opened up and revitalising the rest of the village.
“We need more people into the village and hopefully this will be done.”
Most of the proposed houses will be built close to the empty Belvedere Hotel on a slope created after the cliff is removed, although a separate set of four terraced houses are proposed on nearby Salmond Terrace.
Planning officer Elspeth Cook conceded that the council and the applicants had been discussing the site for some considerable time, but felt that the best possible outcome had been achieved in the current planning application.
The number of houses initially sought stood at 54 and that was reduced to 42 as per the current application, although Ms Cook’s recommendation that two plots should be removed from the plans due to privacy concerns was accepted by councillors.
Ms Cook also noted that the private garden grounds for the housing was “very small”, although she said the council’s policy had to be relaxed in this instance to facilitate the development.
“It’s a difficult site to develop, there’s no doubt about that, and those who have visited the site will fully appreciate the challenges the applicant will face,” she added.
Concerns over the removal of a large swathe of woodland thought to be inhabited by badgers and bats were also noted during the meeting, although a 12-metre strip of woodland will be retained alongside the main public road leading to the village to help screen the houses.
The applicants now have two years to carry out the work before renewed consent needs to be obtained.