Councillors in Fife have sunk plans to give a former quarry a new lease of life as a leisure and tourism facility.
Eden Muir Limited had been seeking permission to create a new trout fishery just off the A91 at Mountcastle Quarry, which was previously used for sand and gravel extraction for many years.
The former quarry pits at the Melville Lodges site have since been flooded to form a series of lochans, which have been fenced off for safety reasons.
But the company’s proposals to fill the waterbodies with trout and install 19 fishing platforms, a pontoon and a reception building failed to find favour with members of the north-east Fife planning committee, who voted seven-six against the idea.
Councillors heard that work on the fishing venture had already started without permission, and officers have now been asked to ensure the site is fully restored by taking enforcement action.
Conservative councillor Tony Miklinski formally moved refusal of the application, suggesting it would have a negative impact on the area’s ecology and biodiversity and that there was insufficient justification for such a development in that location.
“We should very clearly be making every effort to make sure there is not any further demise of species unless it’s a really important activity,” he said.
Cllr Miklinski also said it “beggars belief” that work had apparently started on site without permission.
Fife Council’s natural heritage officer had voiced concerns about the impact the development could have on bird populations and the site’s biodiversity, but a series of mitigation measures – including no fishing exclusion zones – put forward by Eden Muir convinced planners to recommend approval.
However, the 13-strong committee was divided on the application’s merits, with seven members eventually deciding to overrule that recommendation.
More than 100 comments were received by planners – 64 in support and 41 against – and highlighted how contentious the application has been.
Monimail Community Council even branded the project as a “Trojan horse”, suggesting it was clearly an attempt to develop the site further for housing or as a holiday park.
Chair David Hamilton said locals had gradually seen the erosion of the local environment through the nearby Melville Waste Works and incessant quarrying and fears leisure encroachments will be next.
And he added: “The cumulation of these projects plus low appetite to enforce post-development pledges and promises is a disgrace.
“This is not an altruistic stewardship of a problem piece of land but an attempt by a housing development company to get a foothold and commercially develop a beauty spot in a very special part of Fife.”
By local democracy reporter Craig Smith