THE owner of a luxury holiday estate has rebutted accusations he has failed to consult local residents over a £10m expansion plan.

The proposed woodland wedding venue and chapel, indoor swimming pool, play barn, aircraft landing strip, six treehouse style holiday homes, 12 lodge style caravans, golf greens and bunkers has raised hackles at the nearby village of Largoward in Fife.

The family-run business headed by John Ainscough already has three large holiday houses for up to 30 guests, its own golf driving range and currently has permission for an ­additional four holiday homes, a café/bistro and a helicopter landing pad. The new application is due to come before Fife Council’s North East ­Planning Committee this week.

Ainscough told the Sunday ­National that despite the ­“ill-informed” ­objections of the local residents he was prepared to let them use the swimming pool and golf facilities free of charge if the Hawkswood ­development goes ahead.

He added that it would also lead to 35 to 40 “well paid” jobs.

Ainscough, a qualified pilot, said people were “hung up” about the landing strip but it was for his own use.

“It is not to annoy any neighbours but to offer the people who stay here the facility to see from the air the most iconic courses in the world,” he said. “I want to offer this unique experience and do it for charity as well.”

However local residents claim the development will not only swamp the village but is an example of the ­“democratic deficit” in Scotland’s planning policies.

Resident Manfredi La Manna, a reader in economics at St Andrews University, said the plans would ­result in a 30% expansion of the ­village but the main problem was the “lack of consultation”.

Large development proposals usually go before the relevant community council but Largoward no longer has one, so public consultations were held at nearby Cameron Hall instead.

La Manna said this meant no-one in Largoward knew anything about the planning application.

He also queried whether the impact on the environment and local traffic levels had been properly assessed.

“One would have thought that helicopters and aircrafts whizzing around, not to mention the 1am ­licence for ‘parties’, could ­possibly have some kind of effect on the ­local wildlife, but not Fife Council’s ­planning department for whom ‘no Environmental Impact Assessment is required’,” he said.

La Manna added that he had been told councillors on the Fife Planning Committee were not allowed to speak to either objectors or applicants ahead of an application being heard in case of bias.

“So simply talking and even ­listening to the people objecting to an application disqualifies you from ­attending and voting – that is ­madness, absolute madness,” he said. “Councillors surely represent the ­people that vote for them and that ­applies to everything except ­planning.”

However, Ainscough said he had done everything possible to make sure the community had been ­consulted.

“I had to have two press notices which cost £150 a time and we had two public meetings in October 2022, both well attended by around 15-20 people at each meeting and the response was very favourable,” he said.

“In May we were asked by Fife Council if we would mind doing ­another meeting for the people of Largoward and I said I would be ­delighted even though we did not need to do that.”

Ainscough said he would like ­local people to see the “bigger picture” of the application’s employment ­potential and the money that would be generated for the economy.

“We have an extremely successful international business recognised by the majority of golf courses which our guests frequent in the Fife area and they spend an enormous amount of money in and around the ­community,” he said.

Alastair Hamilton, service manager for planning at Fife Council, said: ­“Initial checks have been made to confirm that all the required ­information has been submitted, including screening to determine whether it needed to be assessed under the Environmental Impact Regulations.

“Various consultees including Transportation will feed into the ­assessment of the application in due course.

“The details of the application can be viewed on the Fife Council ­Planning Service web pages, where any interested parties can register ­objections or support.

“Where there is no active community council in an area, we rely on the usual neighbour notification process. It is for a community to consider whether it wishes to have a ­community council or not.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said planning legislation did not prevent councillors from speaking to their constituents.

She added: “Planning reform has inclusion and empowerment at its heart, improving the ­opportunities for people to be involved in the ­decisions that shape their places.

“New local development plans, which will be the basis for all future planning decisions, will be prepared with the communities they serve.

“Local place plans introduced ­under the 2019 Planning (Scotland) Act are also a means for communities to set out their aspirations for their areas, and planning authorities are required to take them into account.

“Consideration of any application for planning permission includes ­opportunities for people to submit their views for consideration by the person determining the application.”