A community arts group in Buckhaven is one step closer to seeing its dream of opening a purpose-built art centre becoming a reality.
Buckhaven Beehive, which took over the Free Gardeners Hall on College Street, Buckhaven, nearly four years ago, was delighted when councillors approved a planning application for an extension to the building to incorporate art studios and a cafe last week.
And now that approval is in place, securing funding to make the plans a reality is now the next big hurdle, say trustees Blair Denwette and Linda Judge.
The pair say the approval has been ‘a long time coming’, and while some might ask why it has taken so long to get to this stage, finding their place in the community was important.
“We had to show the community what we were about and that we could deliver,” said Blair.
“Now, it is essential that we have a suitable base to continue to offer that.”
The extension plans include a cafe with sliding doors to the front, a covered walkway and staircase to the right of the building and a second storey in the back with accommodation, office space and toilet facilities.
Linda explained that to see the full extent of the plans realised, funding of around £2 million will need to be secured.
“It will probably be a pool of funding, and the building work completed in stages,” she said.
“The most important thing is completing the first stage which is upgrading the heating and installing the cafe frontage.
“We’ll need to consider a number of different options, but considering the Big Lottery funding process takes around eight months, we probably won’t see any work started for at least a year.”
The pair believe that the Beehive could become a hub for the whole of Scotland, attracting people from all over the country.
The plans also include basic accommodation, meaning they could host artists in residence from anywhere in the world.
Over the last four years, the Beehive has played host to a number of events and offered space to groups who need it, including local bands and fellow Buckhaven group CLEAR.
Since 2013, they have organised an annual arts exhibition, Fall for the Arts, which continues to attract artists from Fife and further afield.
“There are a number of similar centres in Scotland, such as the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen and Cat’s Stand in Dumfries,” said Blair.
“But what stands us apart is the fact we don’t work in the community, separate from them, we work with them.”
Linda added: “The biggest difference I can see is, while other places offer a programme of events that people simple turn up and take part in, people here very much take responsibility for the events, so that the place is theirs.”
For now, the Beehive is still all about integration and working with the community.
“We really need the community to come on board,” said Blair, “because this place belongs to them. We are here and will be here to manage it but whether it succeeds or not is really up to them.”
Councillors were asked to consider the plans for the former Free Gardeners Hall at the recent central area planning Committee as a result of the proposal receiving more than five objections. These included car-parking provision, worries about reduced access to a nearby premises, concerns about the impact on nearby businesses because of the cafe, as well as objections to the loss of trees on the site and concerns over the possibility of anti-social behaviour. Officers recommended approval for the proposal, with four recommendations, including making neighbouring properties aware of the work and installing lighting in the side access routes as part of a ‘security by design’ upgrade. Councillor David Alexander welcomed the plans and accepted that while it would be easier for all local groups to work together without objection, the project was fantastic for Buckhaven and it was more important to go ahead with the plans rather than getting ‘caught in beuracracy’. Cllr Kay Morrison raised concerns about the removal of the trees at the front of the building, but said: “When I read this, I thought it was a really positive application. It’s building on the existing use and should bring more people to the area.” She also welcomed the plans to improve heating in the building, which she believed would encourage more people to come and stay longer. Cllr John Beare queried the hours of operation, as none were stated in the report, and asked that a recommendation be included in the approval that these be clearly stated. Cllr Tom Adams also welcomed the report, adding: “This is quite an ambitious project, but I think it’s brilliant.” He added that he wished other groups would come on board ‘instead of submitting objections for petty reasons’. While some members did not see any reason for more lighting, and Cllr Ross Vettraino questioned the exact meaning of ‘in the hours of darkness’, the recommendation to install new lighting was agreed as part of the overall proposal.
To find out more about the Beehive and to get involved, visit the www.buckhavenbeehive.org or search for it on Facebook.