A councillor has slammed Fife Council for “a done deal” at Lochore Meadows which will see use of the loch “effectively privatised” with no input from the local community or elected members.
Officers at Fife Council are currently negotiating with St Andrews University to give its boat club a 40-year lease for a boathouse which the university plans to build.
Officers expect the lease to be signed shortly. Inquiries by Cllr Linda Holt revealed that elected members will not get a say in whether the lease is granted or what its terms should be, as the authority to agree the lease is delegated to officers.
Cllr Holt said:
“It’s been a huge shock to people who care about the Meedies to discover that neither they nor elected members will get any say in whether the lease goes ahead. It’s basically a done deal.
Following concerns raised by Benarty Community Council, St Andrews University Boat Club held a very belated “consultation event” at Benarty Centre last month in which they exhibited their plans for the boat shed.
Local people were very disappointed to learn that the University has no intention to share the facility with other rowers at the Meedies and no concrete plans for any community outreach work at Lochgelly High School or other local schools.
Giving St Andrews University a 40-year lease for the exclusive use of the loch for rowing with their own secured compound and boat house effectively privatises a key part of the Meedies. St Andrews University’s rowing teams will have priority over other loch users, and this lease kills off other leisure development possibilities – such as for fishing – on the water.
Locals have told me they can’t understand why Fife Council isn’t building the boat house and allowing St Andrews to lease it on an annual basis which would give other teams the chance to row as well as flexibility if there were problems with the University’s use of the loch.
Last year’s furore over the lack of consultation and transparency over the new Meedies visitor centre, which Labour drove through in the face of overwhelming and well-grounded opposition in Benarty and further afield, exposed the lack of any structure for genuine community involvement and the glaring absence of any comprehensive vision for the future of this neglected park.
Instead of working with communities to create a Meedies action plan, Fife Council is now going behind their backs and the backs of their own members to seal a lease with a private club which will significantly curtail future development options at the park.
This flies in the face of the Community Empowerment Act, which requires Scottish public authorities to promote and facilitate the participation of members of the public in decisions and activities which will improve outcomes for communities.
At Thursday’s Policy & Co-Ordination Committee members will be presented with a “Plan for Fife” and told by the Council’s co-leaders that “A big part of what we plan to do is to to involve local communities in designing places and services and, if they want to, in helping to deliver their own improvements”.
If the Labour and SNP leaders want to do more than pay lip-service to “communities”, they will put the St Andrews University plans on ice, set up a proper community participation structure and start at long last a full and open debate on the future of the Meedies.”