PLANS to transform a vacant gap site in Kirkcaldy are set to move forward after councillors went against the planning authority’s recommendation, and gave it the go-ahead. 

 The decision was made at this week’s meeting of Fife Council’s West and Central planning committee.

The £2.5 million plans from Castlecreoft and Stephens the Bakers will transform an empty site in Kirkcaldy into a bakery shop, business units and storage facilities. 

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The Hendry Road and Hayfield Industrial Estate site has been vacant for two decades, and developers have said the plans could create up to 100 jobs. 

Planners wanted to refuse the application because they said the bakery development was not appropriate as it would introduce retail onto a site which is designated as employment land. According to planners, it would also “likely impact” on the shopping area it nearby Templehall.

Generally speaking, employment land is allocated for industry, business and office use, storage and distribution, business parks and specialist technology parks.

Crucially, it does not include retail uses. 

“The proposed bakery unit is in conflict. Therefore the development as a whole conflicts with the National Planning Framework and the local development plan due to loss of employment land,” councillors were told. 

“It’s accepted that the development would bring benefits in terms of re-use of vacant land as well as employment and training opportunities, but they don’t outweigh the conflict with the development plan.” 

However, committee convener David Barrat (SNP for Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay) questioned whether refusing the entire application due to the bakery plans was proportionate. 

“I think this is quite finely balanced and I could go either way on this one,” he said. “It’s contrary in terms of one of the uses, but it’s a small proportion of the overall application. 

Is it proportionate to refuse the application on that alone when Fife Council’s Economic Development team have been consulted and say the development would create employment use and be considered a positive for jobs and investment?”

Councillor Lesley Backhouse (SNP for Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy) agreed. She said the decision was on a “finely edged knife”. 

“We need to be getting our vacant land working and getting employment onto it. The development would provide employment and other opportunities. I’d like to propose that we accept this application,” she added.

Councillor John Beare (SNP for Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch) was the sole dissenting voice. He sided with planners, asking that the application be refused. 

“I don’t accept the logic that we must get vacant land working at apparently no expense,” he said.

 “I’m also very mindful of displacement from one retail centre to another, particularly in Kirkcaldy.”

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He added: “Those who proposed the Morrisons said there would be no impact on town centre and that clearly didn’t work out.” 

Had the bakery not been part of the proposal, Cllr Beare theorised that the plans would have “sailed through” the process, but as it stood he wanted to see the plans refused. 

However, he was the only councillor in favour of refusing as the committee voted to approve the application.