Benarty community accuses council of “wilful destruction and neglect” at Meedies Centre

The Benarty community is “sad and angry” about preliminary demolition work and deliberate neglect of the Visitor Centre at Lochore Meadows Country Park despite Council promises that demolition would be halted to allow for public consultation on controversial plans for its replacement.

Fife Coastal and Countryside Trust, which runs the Lochore Meadows Country Park on behalf of Fife Council, closed the visitor facility on 23rd October ahead of the planned demolition of the existing building on 15 November.

At an emergency public meeting on 14 November, Cllr Mark Hood promised demolition work would not take place to allow public consultation about plans for a new centre. If the community did not find the plans acceptable, he promised the new centre would not go ahead.

In a public meeting of 200+ concerned Benarty residents on 5 December, the community voted 80:20 70:30* to reject the amended plans for a new centre as not ambitious enough and not fit for purpose.

Now park visitors have reported preliminary dismantling of the centre has already taken place and vandalism is occurring.

Regular playground visitor Lesley Penman said:

“It’s really sad to see the state visitor centre has been allowed to get into. The decking is now like an ice rink and lethal for kids to run across. No wonder it’s becoming a target for vandals.

“The new centre is a monstrosity and half the size of the current facility. Local people weren’t consulted at all and now we’ve told Fife Council we don’t want it, it looks like they’re going ahead anyway.”

Chair of Lochore Meadows Panel Lorna Bett said:

“We were promised that nothing would happen to the old centre while the public were being consulted. Now it looks as if preliminary demolition work started even before planning consent was granted.

Apparently a preliminary survey for asbestos has already taken place, even though Fife Council should know about any asbestos risk because they constructed the building in the first place. Whoever did the asbestos survey has been incredibly destructive, doing far more damage to the interior fabric than necessary – it looks as if vandals have been let loose.

On top of that, railings and benches outside have been removed and the decking is no longer being looked after so it has become dangerously slippery for anyone who wanders across it.

The outside of the building has already suffered damage from vandals. Notices of closure and imminent demolition confirm the building has been abandoned and are an open invitation for further vandalism.

With the winter weather closing in, and the holiday season approaching, the risk to the site can only grow. We know abandoned buildings like this can fall into rack and ruin over a matter of months if they are not looked after.

Fife Council clearly thought the new visitor centre was a done deal and rushed ahead with shutting down and dismantling the old one despite having no planning consent. No community consultation at all was carried out.

By allowing the centre to fall into a dangerous state of neglect and disrepair, we are afraid Fife Council is hoping it will be too late or too expensive to reopen the existing centre.

From the very start this project has excluded local communities and flouted rules for community consultation as well as the proper procedures for development. Now the community has made it crystal clear they want their old centre back while the project for a replacement is started again from scratch, it looks like Fife Council is deliberately ignoring the community’s wishes.

Cllr Mark Hood didn’t even know preliminary demolition work had started at the last public meeting, and we don’t know who authorised it. People are frightened that a process is now underway which cannot be halted.

No wonder people are sad and angry when they see the wilful destruction and neglect that has been inflicted at the heart of the Meedies.

We want the centre safeguarded immediately. The damage to date needs to be repaired and the centre re-opened as soon as possible so visitors have a café and toilets to use as required.

The leader of Fife Council has accepted our invitation for a meeting with the community on Tuesday and we hope he will be able to call a definitive halt to this fiasco before any more damage is done.”

Admin Note: We have been asked to change the voting stat from the public meeting of 80:20 to 70:30 on the basis of:

The chairman at the public meeting estimated the vote split at 70:30 and this has been accepted by those present.

The edit in the article has been clearly marked with the original and changes visible.

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