£25m investment and 100 new jobs for Guardbridge

The former paper mill at Guardbridge is set to be transformed.
The former paper mill at Guardbridge is set to be transformed.

One hundred new jobs are set to be created in Guardbridge, which is still reeling from the closure of the former paper mill.

That has been announced by St Andrews University, whose plans to transform the mill site include attracting £25 million of investment.

The university are hoping to bring in new industry and technology to completely revitalise the site which has been run down since Curtis Fine Papers’ shock closure of the mill in July 2008.

The news is a real shot in the arm for the community which is also bracing itself for the fall out from the impending closure of RAF Leuchars.

The university has confirmed that the site will be home to a Green Energy Centre and there are ongoing discussions with a company looking to open up a brewery in Guardbridge.

The plans also include a Knowledge Exchange Centre to allow research and discoveries made on campus to be translated to working prototypes.

Having carried out detailed investigation and preparation work over the past 18 months, the university is now looking for a specialist partner to develop the Green Energy Centre.

The centre will generate and distribute energy (in the form of heat and electricity) produced by biomass, hydro-power, ground source heat pumps and possibly gas reclamation from sewage.

Some of the energy will be used to power businesses on the site while the rest will be pumped as hot water to St Andrews where it will heat and cool buildings and student residences.

Despite having managed to decrease its energy use in recent years, the university say rising energy prices are a major threat to investment in front line teaching and research and the Guardbridge site will help them in this regard.

The biomass facility will use clean, renewable fuels, locally sourced wherever possible, and the centre will also offer affordable accommodation to local companies.

Establishing a brewery could create up to 20 jobs by 2014 and would see the site revisit its past as the Seggie Distillery prior to becoming a paper production plant.

Other jobs will be created during the construction phase, running the centres and in the relocation of spin-out and other companies to Guardbridge.

Derek Watson, university quaestor and factor, told the Citizen: “Guardbridge represents a major strategic step for us.

“We are committed wherever possible to becoming carbon neutral and this large industrial site lends itself to the creation of a range of renewable energies which are vital to our efforts to remain one of Europe’s leading research institutions.

“There is also an ideal opportunity to establish a Knowledge Exchange Centre for spin-out, local companies seeking affordable accommodation and for prototype testing.

“We believe the diverse range of potential uses at Guardbridge has the capacity to re-establish this huge site as a key economic centre in Fife.

“It has taken us longer than we originally anticipated to prepare the groundwork for site development and we are grateful for the patience and encouragement given to us by the local community over the last 18 months.

“We will consult closely with the community as our plans take shape.”

Subject to appointing an energy partner and obtaining planning permission, work is expected to start at the site next year with the centres becoming operational in 2014.

The university also hopes to bid for Government funding to support the creation of a Knowledge Exchange Centre.

Discussions are ongoing between the university and key stakeholders about enhancing and possibly relocating and expanding the bird hide operated by the Fife Ranger Service.

There is also the potential to develop the land to the south of the main site for commercial uses such as retail, leisure or private housing and the plans include exploring the provision of a new community resource in the village.