Councillor comes out against West Sands visitor centre plans

Plans for a visitor centre at West Sands have been opposed by Councillor Brian Thomson.
Plans for a visitor centre at West Sands have been opposed by Councillor Brian Thomson.

A St Andrews councillor has opposed plans for the new visitor centre at the town’s iconic West Sands.

Brian Thomson said this week that he was “very concerned” about the design submitted by the Fife Coastal and Countryside Trust (FCCT), describing it as “completely out of character with the iconic and historic setting.”

Speaking ahead of next month’s north-east Fife planning committee meeting, Councillor Thomson - who is a member of the committee - said he was able to speak out because his involvement with the St Andrews Links Trust, which has objected to the plan, meant he would be excluded from Council discussions.

“I fully recognise the need for a quality facility,” he said, but added: “Key views from the West Sands, the town and the golf courses would, in my opinion, be interrupted by buildings that would be completely out of context with their setting. I feel a development more in keeping with other nearby buildings would be preferable.”

Although he welcomed FCCT’s decision to remove wind turbines from the plans, Councillor Thomson commented: “I would hope that there is an opportunity to re-visit the proposal, and come up with a design that is more appropriate for its sensitive setting.”

Objectors to the proposal were joined this week by the controversial St Andrews Environmental Protection Society Ltd (STEPAL)which said the plans were not acceptable from several perspectives and called for an environmental impact assessment of the proposal “given the location in the green belt and the sensitivity of the area.”

Stating that the development is in an area of great natural beauty STEPAL’s Sandra Thomson said the visitor centre’s two-storey design would have a disproportionate impact on the area.

However, FCCT chief executive Amanda McFarlane hit back in a letter to Fife Council, saying: “We believe our design is environmentally sensitive and great care has been taken to ensure that it sits comfortably in its setting. This site is, in fact, a landfill site and has no historic character as such. Our proposed building is not part of the golf culture, it is a gateway into the natural environment and it is there to service the walkers and beach users, not the golfers.”

Mrs McFarlane added that Fife Council’s own urban design consultation had concluded the design was “consistent with the aim of setting an iconic building in this sensitive location.”

Support for the plan came this week from Keep Scotland Beautiful which said West Sands was in desperate need of new facilities, calling for improved facilities and visitor centre on the site. “It is widely acknowledged that West Sands is an iconic resource for the area,”it said. “Improved facilities will only enhance this further.”