The public is being asked for their views on proposals for a boathouse operated by the Univeristy of St Andrews Boat Club at Lochore Meadows with a public consultation event being held today (22nd August) at Benarty Centre.
Plans for a boathouse at Lochore Meadows with a proposed 40-year lease granted to the University of St Andrews Boat Club have sparked concern across Central Fife communities.
Hot on the heels of the Meedies Visitor Centre scandal and the Closed Loop Cycle Track controversy, it now appears that Fife Council have been holding secret talks with St Andrews University for a boathouse, which if approved, will effectively privatise land at Lochore Meadows.
St Andrews University Boat Club is negotiating directly with Fife Council. Details of the proposals have been scant, with Fife Council actively withholding information, including details of the proposed 40-year lease.
Copies of the communications between St Andrews University boat club and Fife Council (and any partner/arms-length organisations involved) have not been made publicly available. A Freedom of Information request for these was denied.
Fife Council claims that the release of the data would be a “breach of confidence”.
Fife Council recognise that there is a “public interest in disclosure of information” yet continue to refuse the disclosure, with the apparently contradictory claim, “that it is not in the public interest to disclose” as it “would undermine the working relations between the council and third parties.”
Residents have expressed their concerns on social media, raising various points including the lack of timely consultation over proposals, the lack of accountability and transparency and the impact on daily loch users. A number of commentators view the leasing agreement with a private club as effectively privatising public land and fear that it is the thin end of the wedge at the Meedies.
Documents shared with Benarty Community Council show that a 40-year lease is under consideration with an unnamed official quoted:
“40 years is not very long for a ground lease for a building. Effectively the cost has to be written off by the time the lease expires.”
The document further confirms that the land being considered by the University Boat Club will be privatised:
“The public will not have access to the land once it is leased to the University for the duration of the lease.”
The lease will be signed by the University of St Andrews and not be held by the boat club.
Local benefits to the area have been touted by Iain Rice (Director of Rowing at the University of St Andrews):
“This project could bring more sporting opportunities, events and people to the area, as well as raising the profile of Lochore. The University boat club would like to offer rowing tuition for juniors and to provide sessions for children from the local area.”
Benarty Community Councillors had an opportunity to ask the University of St Andrews Boat Club a series of questions including what “concrete proposals are the boat club offering to the community?”
The response provided to Benarty Community Council showed that “there are no ‘concrete’ proposals” further adding that there is a “willingness to offer taster sessions”.
In 2016 the University of St Andrews “invested” £100,000 in the construction of a new boathouse on the banks of River Tay. Despite this investment, the club appears to have decided to relocate to Loch Ore.
USTBC will be holding a public consultation with Fife Council at Benarty Centre, Tuesday 22nd August 2017 between 2pm until 7pm.