Public protest planned over Lochore Meadows row

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The Lochore Meadows Panel is holding a protest outside Fife House tomorrow.

The group is asking elected members to honour their pledge to communities to stop the development of the new visitor centre at the country park.

It also wants to see current funding ringfenced and the creation of a new management board with 50 per cent community participation to take forward ambitious new plans for the “Meedies”.

Kevin Payne of the Lochore Meadows Panel said: “The Lochore Meadows Panel was set up at an emergency public meeting in November to conduct consultation about the proposed new visitor centre at the Meedies.

“Councillor Mark Hood promised that if the community subsequently voted against, the project would be halted.

“At a second public meeting the community voted decisively against. The community stance has been supported by the official consultative body the Lochore Meadows Advisory Forum, the Benarty Forum, Benarty and Lochgelly Community Councils, former Lochs councillor Willie Clark, Lochs councillor Ann Bain, Lochgelly councillor Ian Chisholm, Cowdenbeath councillor Alistair Bain, the local MSP Annabelle Ewing and the MP Roger Mullin.

“Even Lochs Councillor Mary Lockhart has backed the community against her party’s official position.

“But the Labour councillors promoting the new centre have broken their promise, claiming incredibly that only a handful of unrepresentative people are against.”

Mr Payne said that locals feel “betrayed” and that the protest has been organised with the support from members of the public on social media.

He said: “We want to tell the councillors that the Meedies deserves a better visitor centre than a proposal which has been rushed through with no community consultation and no input from external funders.

“The result is a glorified portacabin almost half the size of the current centre which cannot meet the needs of the 500,000+ people who visit the Meedies every year.

“We believe the £1.3 million Fife Council put aside for a new centre could achieve something much better, and that the project could attract considerable external funding if managed properly.

“The officers’ report to the Council recommending the new centre is a disgraceful piece of scare-mongering and we have written to every councillor pointing out the errors and evasions.”

Earlier this month it was announced that Fife Coast and Countryside Trust – which has been in charge of Lochore since 2014 – would hand back management of the park to Fife Council when the pilot scheme ends on March 31.

Mr Payne said the trust have “washed their hands of the Meedies” over the visitor centre row.

“The report to the Executive Committee is a desperate attempt to get elected councillors to provide cover for deeply flawed project management and a woeful failure to work with communities,” he said, “Fife Council has made countless mistakes on consultation, design, external funding and costings.

“Business as usual at the Meedies by Fife Council is not an option.

“We, the people who live by the Meedies and visit day in, day out should be at the heart of “our” Meedies.”

Fife Council chief executive Steve Grimmond has offered to meet the panel the night before the Executive Committee meet. Mr Payne said: “It’s pretty clear anything we say won’t alter the officers’ position.

“Nevertheless we welcome the opportunity to get some answers from Mr Grimmond about the costings and the progress of two on-going internal investigations into the project, especially as Fife Council officers were told not to come to the second public meeting.

“Cllr Davis Ross, the leader of Fife Council, told us Fife Council would not attend any further public meetings or consultations on the visitor centre.

“Nevertheless we will invite Mr Grimmond and councillors to our third public meeting on January 31 at 7pm at the Miners’ Institute in Benarty where we will update the community on the latest position and decide the way forward.”

Mr Payne added: “If the passion and ambition in local communities which this mismanaged project has unleashed is now harnessed for the park’s future development, the sky’s the limit.”