Donald Dewar, the Secretary of State for Scotland, could be called on to make the vital decision over the future of the St Andrews Bay complex at Kingask in Fife.
The complex, which is expected to create 750 jobs and is the brainchild of American tycoon Don Panoz, was originally granted planning permission by Fife Council and construction began last July.
But no sooner had building started than The Review Funding Association (a body of conservation campaigners) launched a campaign for a judicial review to be heard in the Scottish Court of Sessions.
A ruling on the case is expected shortly but Nick Brian, head of development control at Fife Council, admitted that if the decision favours the campaigners it will create a legal minefield.
“The situation is complicated because they did not take action against St Andrews Bay until we had already granted them permission to start building,” Brian said. “If the decision does favour the Review Funding Association then we are in a difficult position because they would have to stop construction and presumably the ruling would then have to include a decision on what happens to the work already done.”
Brian admitted that if the ruling went against Panoz, he would expect an appeal to be launched which would create further difficulties.
“In the case of an appeal then clearly Fife Council would not be allowed to make the final decision,” he said. “I would imagine that the only person with the authority to rule in such an unusual case would the Scottish Secretary of State.”
The battle for St Andrews Bay is one of conservation versus employment. While the Review Funding Association have accused Fife Council of breaching their own planning guidelines by allowing the project to go ahead, the local authority are equally insistent that the amount of employment on offer outweighs the prospect of increased traffic and blocked roads.
“People have to understand that, because of golf, St Andrews is an internationally recognised name,” Brian said. “Therefore development of newer and better facilities is important if the town isn’t to lag behind.
“At the moment, many Americans come because St Andrews is the birthplace of golf but while that mystique will always attract people, without the right facilities some people will stop coming. St Andrews cannot rely entirely on the tourist trade – private investment is needed.”
Panoz, who made his fortune with Irish drugs company Elan Pharmaceutical before moving into the wine and leisure industry, has sunk £35 million into the St Andrews Bay complex with a further £14 million coming from government funding.
The complex is expected to have two championship golf courses – designed by the late Gene Sarazen and Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance – 209 hotel rooms, three restaurants, conference facilities, a health spa and tennis courts. It is due to open in 2001.