With Fife Council chief executive Steve Grimmond forced into an eleventh hour meeting with community activists over the new Meedies visitor centre, a protest is being planned outside Fife House on Tuesday to ask elected members to honour their pledge to communities to stop the development.
The Lochore Meadows Panel is calling on the politicians to ringfence current funding and create a new management board with 50% community participation to take forward ambitious new plans for the Meedies.
Kevin Payne of the Lochore Meadows Panel said:
“The Lochore Meadows Panel was set up at an emergency public meeting in November to conduct consultation about the proposed new visitor centre at the Meedies. Councillor Mark Hood promised that if the community subsequently voted against, the project would be halted.
At a second public meeting the community voted decisively against. The community stance has been supported by the official consultative body the Lochore Meadows Advisory Forum, the Benarty Forum, Benarty and Lochgelly Community Councils, former Lochs councillor Willie Clark, Lochs councillor Ann Bain, Lochgelly councillor Ian Chishom, Cowdenbeath councillor Alistair Bain, the local MSP Annabelle Ewing and the MP Roger Mullin. Even Lochs Councillor Mary Lockhart has backed the community against her party’s official position.
But the Labour councillors promoting the new centre have broken their promise, claiming incredibly that only a handful of unrepresentative people are against.
People feel betrayed. They have asked us on social media and privately for a protest so that the councillors who get to decide on Tuesday have the opportunity to hear the views of local communities.
We want to tell the councillors that the Meedies deserves a better visitor centre than a proposal which has been rushed through with no community consultation and no input from external funders. The result is a glorified portacabin almost half the size of the current centre which cannot meet the needs of the 500,000+ people who visit the Meedies every year.
We believe the £1.3 million Fife Council put aside for a new centre could achieve something much better, and that the project could attract considerable external funding if managed properly.
The officers’ report to the Council recommending the new centre is a disgraceful piece of scare-mongering and we have written to every councillor pointing out the errors and evasions.
There is no reason why the money set aside for the Meedies project cannot be carried over if the political will is there. As for the £83,000 grant from SportScotland, SportScotland have not only refused to say it would definitely be withdrawn, they have emphasized they are keen to “continue discussions” with the Council once they and the local community have decided what to do next.
The Fife Coast and Countryside Trust have washed their hands of the Meedies because the visitor centre project is such a mess. The report to the Executive Committee is a desperate attempt to get elected councillors to provide cover for deeply flawed project management and a woeful failure to work with communities. Fife Council has made countless mistakes on consultation, design, external funding and costings.
Going forward, we want to see a new management board established with 50% participation from local communities. Business as usual at the Meedies by Fife Council is not an option. We, the people who live by the Meedies and visit day in, day out should be at the heart of “our” Meedies.
If the passion and ambition in local communities which this mismanaged project has unleashed is now harnessed for the park’s future development, the sky’s the limit.
Under pressure from MSP Annabelle Ewing, Steve Grimmond offered to meet the Panel the night before the Executive Committee vote so it’s pretty clear anything we say won’t alter the officers’ position. Nevertheless we welcome the opportunity to get some answers from Mr Grimmond about the costings and the progress of two on-going internal investigations into the project, especially as Fife Council officers were told not to come to the second public meeting.
Cllr Davis Ross, the leader of Fife Council told us Fife Council would not attend any further public meetings or consultations on the visitor centre. Nevertheless we will invite Mr Grimmond and councillors to our third public meeting on 31 January at 7pm at the Miners’ Institute in Benarty where we will update the community on the latest position and decide the way forward.”