£50,000 package to re-open doors to historic Abbot House

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Fife Council has agreed £50,000 in funding to help reopen Abbot House in Dunfermline.

At a Dunfermline area committee, councillors agreed to contribute a portion of the £530,000 needed to help with the restoration and reopening of Abbot House.

Abbot house, a 16th century building in the Dunfermline heritage quarter, has been closed since August 2015. It is currently owned by the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust.

Jillian Taylor, local services manager, explained that a charitable organisation, Abbot House SCIO, has been established for the maintenance and running of the site.

Ms Taylor added: “The trading company will operate the building as a self sustaining institution using a portion of the profits for maintenance.”

However, cllr. Ian Ferguson raised a number of issues and concerns with the plans.

He said: “I think this will be a challenge. People have tried to operate Abbot House in the past.

“If this doesn’t work, then what? We had to fight to get the building back in the Carnegie trust and I think a lot of people are nervous that this might happen again.

“Also £50,000 contribution still leaves them short of the total estimated costs – will we expect them to be back asking for more funds?”

Ms Taylor noted that the organisation had also a few pending applications for funds, and had £470,000 already secure.

She added: “There has been a robust business plan presented. These are the same people who took over the fire station and turned it into a creative hub so they do have experience.

“They won’t be coming back to the council for more funding.”

Cllr. Helen Law, convener of the committee said she was “keen to see this supported”, adding: “This has been a long time coming. Dunfermline has suffered from this building being closed.”

But Cllr Alan Craig reiterated that history showed it was hard to make an income from the building.

He said: “It’s been used a lot in the past and it’s never quite made it.

“I’m still a bit undecided about if the trading company will make it – it’s hard to make a business out of tourism.

“I think this is something that will need to be monitored.”

Funding was agreed on the proposal that the company provide regular updates in the initial months and then annual updates for the first three to five years.

Emma Oneill , Local Democracy Reporting Service