Council says no to West Sands Visitor Centre

The proposed West Sands Visitor Centre which will not be going ahead after being rejected by Fife Council.
The proposed West Sands Visitor Centre which will not be going ahead after being rejected by Fife Council.

Plans for a visitor centre at St Andrews West Sands have been rejected by Fife Council.

In a controversial meeting of this week’s north east Fife planning committee, it was the casting vote of committee chairman, St Andrews councillor Frances Melville, that saw an end to Fife Coast and Countryside Trust’s (FCCT) plans for the centre.

FCCT chief executive Amanda McFarlane hit out following the meeting, saying: “This has been a really badly done process – there was no discussion about the jobs this would bring, or the environment.

“There can now be no visitor centre at West Sands – that’s £1.6 million of investment lost because they don’t think it’s right for the golfers.”

The decision went against the council’s planning officials who had recommended approval of the plan.

Only eight committee members took part in the debate – of those present at the meeting, four ruled themselves out of the discussion, including St Andrews councillors Brian Thomson and Dorothea Morrison, as they were members of other organisations connected to the application that had objected to the proposal.

Councillor Melville moved refusal of the application, and with the vote tied at four in favour and four against, she used her casting vote to put the final nail in the plan’s coffin.

She acknowledged her actions were an unusual move from a committee chairman, and came after she accepted there was “no denying there is a need for this kind of facility because what is there at present is really low standard”.

But she expressed reservations about the impact the new building would have on golfers, its planned height and the stainless steel finish of the roof.

Councillor Bryan Poole argued for the new visitor centre, saying: “The mistake would be to look at it from the point of view of golfers because it is for the people using the beach. I am not sure that golfers would notice it and make critical comments.

“I think it is a really radical design. It will replace two pretty decrepit buildings which are of no value at all.”

Councillor Donald Lothian described the design as “iconic” adding: “Sometimes a leap of faith is required.”

Mrs McFarlane was distraught at the committee’s decision and confirmed that the centre would now not go ahead.

Funding for the visitor centre was being sought from the Coastal Communities Fund, in the last year such funds will be available, and the deadline for applications has now passed.

The centre’s architect Tom Morton described the decision as “ridiculous”.