In the wake of multiple criticisms of Fife Coastal & Countryside Trust’s proposed £1.2 million visitor centre at Fife’s most popular free visitor attraction, the Trust has pulled out of running the Lochore Meadows Country Park just months before its management pilot comes up for renewal.
This adds to fears about the future of the Meedies. Local community campaigners have already expressed concern that the existing visitor centre, which the FCCT closed down in October, has been abandoned to vandals and winter weather so it may never re-open.
The Fife Coastal & Countryside Trust (FCCT) told staff just before Christmas that it would no longer be managing the Lochore Meadows Country Park, but it has declined to confirm its stance to either the press or members of the local community. Its only comment has been to say that the issue concerned a council building. Pressed about whether the FCCT has walked away from the visitor centre or the park as a whole, a spokesperson for the FCCT said “We have no further comments to make, the matter is being dealt with through discussions between our CEO and Fife Council” 1.
The FCCT, which took over the running of the park and visitor centre as a pilot project in July 2014, closed the existing centre on 23rd October, ahead of demolition scheduled for 15th November 2. Demolition did not take place because of community protest at the plans for the new centre which was aired at two well-attended public meetings in Benarty in November and December.
At both meetings the FCCT was heavily criticised. It carried out no public consultation, it failed to secure match funding and the final plans were for a “carbuncle” which did not meet park-users’ needs. The Lochore Meadows Advisory Group convened by FCCT to facilitate engagement between the trust, council and communities around the Meedies, was not consulted about the final plans, and did not meet for ten months between January and December 2016.
Chris Broome, who became the FCCT’s chief executive on 31 October 2016, apologised for the lack of Advisory Group meetings, pointing to personnel changes as a reason. Mr Broome is the fourth person in a year to take the helm at the FCCT.
Tom Kinnaird, a member of the Lochore Meadows Panel, said:
“We were very disappointed that no one at FCCT or Fife Council responded when we made our concerns about the visitor centre public 3. Parts have already been dismantled and damaged in preparation for demolition, and the building has effectively been abandoned and left to rot. Already parents whose children use the adjacent playground have expressed safety worries.
“Now we learn on the grapevine that the FCCT has pulled out of the Meedies completely. A string of management failures seems to have been crowned with a management walk-out.
“Fife Council owns the FCCT so the buck stops with Fife Council. Instead of continuing to keep the communities around the Meedies in the dark, Fife Council should be working with them to sort this mess out.
“The leader of Fife Council told us a report on the situation was being prepared for presentation to the Executive Committee on January 24 4. In the meantime no one seems to be taking responsibility and the existing centre, which has had tens of thousands spent on upgrades in the last couple of years 5, is being allowed to go to rack and ruin.”
FCCT’s Lochore Meadows management pilot was due to run until 31 March 2016.
- https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/fife/337226/fears-council-will-press-on-regardless-with-lochore-meadows-visitor-centre/ ↩
- As stated on notices on the visitor centre; http://fifecoastandcountrysidetrust.co.uk/Countryside/Lochore-Meadows-Country-Park_24.html ↩
- https://lochgelly.org.uk/2016/12/councils-wilful-destruction-neglect-at-meedies/ ↩
- https://lochgelly.org.uk/2016/12/statement-from-lochore-meadows-panel/ ↩
- http://www.centralfifetimes.com/news/13552255.Revamp_is_smash_hit_at_Benarty_s_Lochore_Meadows/ ↩