Seafield Colliery blueprint had much more than housing

A view of the winding tower at Seafield colliery in Fife, seen through the spiked railings. Picture taken January 1988.
A view of the winding tower at Seafield colliery in Fife, seen through the spiked railings. Picture taken January 1988.

The towers have long since vanished from the skyline, and the old blue fence which ran the length of the road taken down.

Anyone passing Seafield today would have no idea it was once a place where 1600 miners worked – a place where generations went underground to do the toughest of jobs.

Plaque  plaque erected by Kirkcaldy Civic Society & Fife Mining Heritage Society in Bowhouse Drive to commemorate where the Seafield Colliery used to stand - in Bowhouse Drive, Kirkcaldy

Plaque plaque erected by Kirkcaldy Civic Society & Fife Mining Heritage Society in Bowhouse Drive to commemorate where the Seafield Colliery used to stand - in Bowhouse Drive, Kirkcaldy

The only acknowledgement of Kirkcaldy’s industrial heritage is a small plaque on the railings of the playpark in Bowhouse Drive, deep inside the estate.

The transition from howking coal from under the Forth to executive houses has changed the landscape at one of the gateways to Kirkcaldy.

The old B&Q shed has been torn down, replaced by Morrisons, and Fife Coastal Path has opened up, revealing the beauty of the area.

Looking back on how Seafield became the town’s desired place to live also shines a light on what might have been.

1990: Plans unveiled for new housing development at Seafield Colliery, Kirkcaldy. from Fife Free Press archives

1990: Plans unveiled for new housing development at Seafield Colliery, Kirkcaldy. from Fife Free Press archives

The change began in March 1990 with the Fife Free Press reporting on an “un-named consortium poised to clinch a deal to buy the land and create the massive development.

READ MORE Why your train services have been worse recently

READ MORE Deep fried Christmas dinner from Fife chippie

While the players preferred to remain anonymous back then – they were publicly named six months later – it was no secret who they were.

Alex Penman, Eddie Melville, George Muir, and Amir Joseph joined forces to bid for the 1000-acre site when it went up for sale by British Coal Estates.

Their offer was thought to run into seven figures – the Press later speculated it was a £20m project – and the details of those initial reports suggest a very different vision.

It said new housing “could be a major part of the project” which was considered to be a “memorial to the town’s past”.

Seafield would be home to “job-creating businesses” as well as a retail park, beach front tourist accommodation, and a leisure and a leisure complex with restaurants and shops. There was even talk of a care home or place for people with special needs.

As for housing, that would consists of around 250 up market, executive villas with price tags of around £250,000.

To put that into context, in 1990, a house in William Street, complete with a cellar, was going for offers over £47,000, while a substantial villa in Glenbervie Road, Dunnikier Estate was on the market at £52,000.

If you wanted a new build, then Balgeddie in Glenrothes, had detached villas from £68,000 to £110,000.

Had that bold vision been delivered, Kirkcaldy’s waterfront could have been a very different place – a great place to live, but also with a vibrant leisure scene.

The Seafield that did spring up on land where generations of men went underground, consisted only of housing.

It continues to sit at the top end of the market, with many stunning family homes, albeit it is also home to many white vans – business owners who still don their working clothes and get their hands dirty.

But the original plans clearly made an impression.

Bob Watt, architect who designed the estate, believed it could be the catalyst for the regeneration of the entire waterfront area.

He said: “This is moving Kirkcaldy into the 21st century and creating a new future for the town and its people.”

Seafield was also expected to appeal to many people in Edinburgh, keen to escape the capital’s property price boom and take advantage of the good transport links across the Forth.

It wasn’t the only development in town then either.

The Pathhead Village got the go-ahead from councillors in 1990 – a unique development of 171 homes based around intimate courtyards, which brought back into use land that was once the base of Nairn’s linoleum factory.

And Dean Entertainments got the green light for 50 homes in the grounds of Dean Park Hotel. Ironically the development came at a time when Kirkcaldy, and the surrounding area, was named as the fourth least properous place in the UK.

Researchers at Newcastle and Cardiff Universities studied the economic standing of the town and reckoned it had fallen far behind as the north-south divide grew.

James Brodie, chief executive of Fife Chamber of Commerce wasn’t impressed, dismissing the report and saying: According to them, Kirkcaldy is one one hell of a mess. That is not my feeling at all.”

Lewis Moonie, MP for Kirkcaldy, wasn’t singing from the same page and reckoning the research was spot on.

“We have witnessed the run down of the workforce of traditional industry, the loss of pits and the collapse of electronics, and there is nothing coming in to replace the jobs that have gone,” he said. “The researchers are not talking about social aspects – how nice it is to stay here – they are talking purely about the economic standing of the community and, by that criteria, we are very far down the list.”

One can only wonder what might have been had Seafield’s original vision for those “job creating businesses” come to fruition.