A HOMELESS hostel in the centre of Auchtermuchty would ‘sound the death knell’ for the town as well as jeopardise its 30-year-old festival.
That’s the view of Auchtermuchty Community Association following a packed public meeting last week about controversial plans to turn a 16th century former coaching inn into a house of multiple occupancy.
Falkland B&B proprietor Duncan Heaton-Armstrong is seeking permission to convert the Forest Hills Hotel, which stands at the heart of the town, into a facility accommodating up to 19 people.
He insists that the plans are for an HMO and not a hostel and that it will be run by experienced, live-in managers.
But at last Thursday night’s meeting, which was attended by almost 100 people, Mr Heaton-Armstrong faced a barrage of complaints from anxious locals concerned about anti-social behaviour.
Care professionals have also expressed misgivings about his proposal to create what one objector has dubbed a ‘Dickensian doss-house with Ikea trimmings’, saying that a staff of around 40 would be needed instead of the married couple Mr Heaton-Armstrong has identified.
Andy Heer, chairman of the community association, said: “These plans would create the largest homeless hostel in Fife, bringing in vulnerable people who are mainly accustomed to the culture and facilities of large towns and dumping them in a rural community with few facilities or support in a hostel with only two staff.”
The hotel already takes in homeless residents, but Mr Heaton-Armstrong says that it does not have a licence as an HMO and the current owners are not experienced or qualified enough to prevent anti-social behaviour.
However, locals fear a repeat of previous incidents in which drug or alcohol abusers have been said to hang around the hotel entrance and war memorial accosting and abusing passers-by.
One objector said he had been threatened with a knife by a bottle-wielding hotel resident.
Mr Heer said after the meeting that residents were also concerned that the Forest Hills was the only commercial premises left at the Cross.
“We’re worried that this could sound the death knell for the centre of Auchtermuchty,” he said.
“It would seriously impact on plans to bring new life to the town square and would have a major impact on the Auchtermuchty Festival.”