Energy Park plans hang in the balance

Fife Energy Park'Methil'Tam Pelan picture'Use for EAST FIFE MAIL only.
Fife Energy Park'Methil'Tam Pelan picture'Use for EAST FIFE MAIL only.
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THE future of a £17 million employment boost for Levenmouth has controversially stalled at the door of the Scottish Government.

Ministers were expected to announce in mid-September whether a shortlisted bid by Fife Council to spark major new development at the Fife Energy Park would get the go-ahead.

If approved, the cash will be used to expand the park by 50 hectares, allowing it to attract the largest potential offshore wind projects – and create another 1000 jobs.

However, following leaks of a new bid in Aberdeen, speculation is mounting that the Scottish Government may reject the favoured shortlist of applicants.

Ronnie Hair, lead officer in economic development, told the Mail he believes a decison will be reached “in the near future”.

Crucially, he remains upbeat about Levenmouth’s chances of being selected.

“I would hope so,” he commented.

“It’s fair to say we think we have a good proposal but we have to wait for the Scottish Ministers to make a decision.

“We have been advised that they will select three pilot projects.”

Fife Council made a submission to the Government for support under the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Scheme in August.

Of 16 submissions made by local authorities across Scotland, Fife’s was shortlisted for recommendation.

However, last week a ‘source’ connected to Aberdeen City Council revealed the Government was considering its £80 million proposal to integrate its main street with a central park.

Fife Council’s proposal is looking to identify and develop parcels of land in Levenmouth which could attract large companies to the area.

For example, a feasibility study is currently being conducted by engineeers for a Low Carbon Investment Park at Percival Road in Buckhaven.

If the TIF bid is accepted, Fife Council can match £851,000 already pledged by European funding for that project.

Unlike other funding, TIF cash is essentially a loan borrowed against predicted increases in non-domestic rates revenue.

The model is widely used in disadvantaged areas in America and, crucially, cash is only given to projects which can realistically be expected to make a return on the loan.

“If we are selected, we will embark on a detailed business plan and would be looking to start a phased development programme within the next 12 months,” said Mr Hair.

Councillor Peter Grant, leader of Fife Council, said TIF approval would allow the council to target the biggest renewable energy inward investment projects.

“Fife is one of the key locations in the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan, and Invest in Fife and partners Scottish Development International have handled over 40 enquiries for the Energy Park, with key decisions from the major turbine manufacturers and key supply chain companies expected by 2013.”

John Robertson, managing director of Burntisland Fabrications (Bifab) acknowledged that, because of the size of components, large companies required very significant quayside sites.

Levenmouth businessman Fraser Phillips, chair of the Fife Economy Partnership, warned: “We can’t rest on our laurels.”

“This expansion has the potential to create up to 1000 additional jobs by 2020 and the Fife Economy Partnership is committed to ensuring the project becomes a reality.”