At a meeting of the Lochgelly Community Council, controversial plans for a new visitor centre at Lochore Meadows failed to gain support from the community council.
The issue of a new visitor centre was raised as part of the report provided by community councillor George Kinnell about the latest meeting of the Lochore Meadows Advisory Group which he attended on behalf of the community council.
The Lochore Meadows Advisory Board (LMAB) was set up by the Fife Coast & Countryside Trust to facilitate communication about the Meedies between Fife Council, the Trust, local community councils and one community group, Benarty Community Forum.
The LMAB has recently been resurrected after not meeting for almost a year.
Its meeting on 2nd December 2016 was in direct response to the Benarty community raising serious issues over plans for the new visitor centre as well as failings in the community engagement and consultation process for these plans. Indeed the new visitor centre was the only issue on the agenda.
The failings of the community engagement process by Fife Council have been recognised by Councillors Mark Hood and Alex Campbell, who have also branded council officers‘ absence from the second public meeting ‘scandalous’.
An open meeting held on the 5th December 2016, with over 200 residents in attendance, saw a clear majority voting to reject current proposals.
Mr Hood has made repeated public promises that if the community rejects the proposals, the project will be halted.
With the LMAB recently re-convened, it has been tasked to look at the current plans for Lochore Meadows Visitor Centre. A further meeting is scheduled for tomorrow Friday, 16 December 2016. According to Cllr Hood, “We have arranged another meeting of representatives from the community in light of the decision by the Benarty Forum Group. This will allow representatives from other communities and groups to have their say on the way forward.”
At the LCC meeting he warned:
“The issue is too large for the community council to decide amongst themselves without wider consultation. Without the consultation we cannot support the current plans being proposed. No decision to support the proposed building can be made by Lochgelly Community Council without first consulting with Lochgelly residents.”Cllr Hood’s fomer election agent and Secretary of the LCC Stevie Murray stressed that “Lochgelly Community Council were not consulted by Fife Council on the plans”.
He further added that the “LCC fully supports and welcomes any investment within the Meedies, whether that is the current building or another design”.
Mr Kinnell concluded: “The proposed building will not be supported without wide community consultation”.
At this point the matter was dropped by community councillors as Mr Kinnell had been given a clear mandate not to support the proposed design at the Lochore Meadows Advisory Board closed door meeting on Friday.
Meanwhile, spokesperson Lorna Bett on behalf of the resident-led Meedies action group has written to council leader Councillor David Ross requesting a meeting.
“The community fears that the council may try to push this project through regardless, even though there has been no input from communities into the design process and the vast majority in Benarty want the chance to develop something better.
“Communities have been excluded from this project from the start, but there is now a chance for Cllr Ross to put them at the heart of it if he will meet them.”
As yet, neither officers nor elected members at Fife Council have given a clear indication of how they are going to respond to local concerns, and address the multiple issues that have now come to light.