Fife Council has been branded “undemocratic” by two of its own councillors after agreeing to hold a crucial planning meeting in private on Wednesday afternoon.
The claims come from Lib Dem Councillor, Bill Porteous and Independent Councillor Linda Holt after the local authority’s legal officers ignored calls for the North East Fife planning committee to be cancelled.
The councillors had called for the meeting to be re-scheduled after technical issues meant it could not be live-streamed to the public.
The pair said they were left with “no alternative” but to walk out of the committee claiming the public, developers, the press and objectors should have the right to access the planning process, especially given decisions were to be taken on a number of key planning applications.
Among proposals up for determination were plans for 60 new homes at Motray Park, Guardbridge, which had received several public objections and an application to build new flats in St Andrews.
“Carrying on with the meeting despite no access to the public was a mistake and wholly undemocratic,” said Councillor Porteous.
“It would have been wiser to postpone the meeting and re-schedule it for when the public could watch.
“I was left with no alternative but to leave the meeting.
Cllr Holt, added: “It is really disappointing that the council puts its own interests ahead of the public interest in being transparent and democratically accountable.
“There is already considerable public distrust in the planning process at Fife Council; councillors choosing to conduct their decision-making behind closed doors which deliberately exclude scrutiny from press and public will only damage that trust further.”
Responding to the councillor’s concerns, Head of Fife Council’s Legal and Democratic Services Morag Ferguson said: “Following public health guidance we are holding all of our council meetings via Teams and livestreaming the meetings so that people can have access to them.
”Unfortunately there were some technical issues with today’s North East Planning Committee and there were difficulties with the livestreaming link.
“We’re working to resolve these issues.
“In terms of the Coronavirus legislation, the requirement to make meetings accessible to the public has been suspended.
“Although we are trying to live stream meetings where we can, there is no legal obligation to do so.”