Controversial plans for Lochore Meadows have been approved by the Executive Committee on 24th January despite strong community opposition to the visitor centre plans and a public protest at Fife House.
Councillors of all parties on Fife Council’s Executive Committee spent over an hour discussing issues relating to the proposal for a new visitor centre at Lochore Meadows, many of which have been raised publicly by concerned residents, public representatives, councillors, politicians and community groups.
Prior to the meeting former councillor Willie Clarke issued a statement to the chief executive of Fife Council Steve Grimmond:“This unfortunate situation about the meadows development has arisen by the fact that the council failed to consult the local community. This has led to a great deal of anger and outrage. Something that it is their responsibility to carry out.
There have been 2 public meetings in the community with standing room, only who expressed their concern about the proposed development. When it was announced that no council official would come out and meet the community to discuss a solution this gave rise to people’s anger that they were being ignored by the council.
Over the years Lochore Meadows has been a tremendous asset for both the people of the community and the Council. Local people believe that the council have a lack of vision and ambition to expand Lochore Meadows and the community have always been ahead (in that respect) of the council in the development. The Meedies is undersold by a lack of publicity. It is unbelievable with the meadows attracting over a half million visitors a year, That the council has failed to realise that ambition. The Meadows could be a great asset to the council in the future. What we need now is a plan setting out the future of Lochore Meadows and this plan must involve the community.”
Lochgelly councillor Ian Chisholm also issued a response:“Its been a complete bourach by the Administration Cllrs and Officers. They seem incapable of changing their minds despite overwhelming opposition, that is in fact a sign of weakness. I am not happy that lead officers are saying the current building cannot be used for the summer season because of asbetos contamination that smacks of a scare story to push their agenda. The building has been used by the public for years and provided its not disturbed is safe. I endorse Willie Clarkes line, the Meedies deserved better if we are serious about making it a first class visitor attraction.”
Lochs councillor Mary Lockhart wrote to the Executive Committee, asking for her views to be recorded:“As an individual and local resident, I support the replacement of the existing Visitor Centre. The currently proposed building lacks aesthetic merit, and this is disappointing, but I prefer a modular building with scope for future development and expansion to one which looks good, but is likely to be unfit for long term purpose after 20 years. With that reservation, and considering the current proposal to be Phase One of a more ambitious and multi-purpose development, I support the building of a new Centre.
However, at the first of the two Public meetings, it was my perception that an undertaking was given on behalf of Fife Council by which I feel bound as a local Councillor. That undertaking was that if the ad hoc panel established to consider the proposed new building, having met with Council officers and had its questions answered and reservations addressed, could not support the proposed new structure, the development would be halted.
The exception to this was the pavilion for the Football Club and the Golfers, which would be progressed as a separate project as soon as possible to allow the funds from Sport Scotland to be utilised.
In line with that undertaking, I now urge the Executive to restore the existing Centre to its condition prior to the asbestos checks, and to ensure that the work on the Pavilion commences in early course.”
Three motions were tabled at the Executive Committee meeting.
Conservative councillors called for the football and golf project to go ahead and the visitor centre to be halted and called into the scrutiny committee for investigation so that the multiple questions which have arisen over the development could be addressed.
SNP councillors called for the football and golf project to go ahead as planned, and for the visitor centre to be halted with a view to combining the controversial closed loop cycle track with a more ambitious project for the overall benefit of the Meedies.
Committee members highlighted that the current approved plans for the closed loop cycle track did not have any local support while they attracted objections from the Glencraig community and SEPA. The proponents of the cycle track did not challenge this assertion.
The third motion came from Labour councillors who called for all projects to go ahead as planned.
Many justifications for the administration’s stance were offered by attending Labour councillors.Lochgelly councillor Linda Erskine cited an ambiguous statement contained in the December minutes for the Lochgelly Community Council to argue that Lochgelly supported the new visitor centre:
“SM [Stevie Murray] that the Community Council supports the campaign for facilities which are suitable for the location, seconded by CM [Carol Mackie]“
This statement by the former election agent for Cllrs Hood and Erskine has been clarified by its seconder, community councillor Carol Mackie who stated publicly (20th Jan) that she seconded the proposal to support “better facilities which Benarty folk, the Benarty CC want.”
Despite this clear statement of Lochgelly Community Council’s refusal to support the visitor centre proposals, which was communicated by the community council’s representative on the Lochore Meadows Advisory Group, Dod Kinnell to the meeting in December, Cllr Erskine misrepresented the position of the LCC to the Executive Committee.Cllr Altany Craik cited the Facebook page “an unofficial community” which was only established on 21st January and contained only 7 comments of support for the proposed building as proof that the community was split as it allegedly indicated a large section of the community supported the proposals.
Despite poor reasoning in support of the controversial plans and many admissions that mistakes had been made, the Labour majority on the Executive Committee ensured the Labour’s proposal that the visitor centre go ahead was approved without any commitment to “learn from” mistakes or to subject the entire saga to any form of scrutiny or public investigation.
The words of Fife Council and Labour group leader Cllr David Ross that “communities are at the heart of everything we do” ring hollow throughout OOR MEEDIES!
Featured Photo credits & copyright: Kevin Murray (View the full set of images at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/benartymatters/permalink/971535372949890/)