Fife Council planners have been accused of ‘living in the past’ and holding up progress in Kirkcaldy.
Diana Josephs, whose company United Investments Ltd owns the former Victoria Road power station, says that onerous conditions placed on consent to demolish the building, which was granted over a year ago, are holding up the opportunity of re-developing a site which is one of the town’s major eyesores.
And she says that if she was allowed to just pull down the Grade B listed building – which is in a dangerous state with a huge crack on the back wall – work could begin again on transforming the site and bringing in new businesses and jobs for local people.
Planning permission for a convenience store next to the site is still active, while permission which was given for a nursing home has lapsed due.
Mrs Josephs (68), who is based in Manchester and owns Stocks discount carpet store on Links Street, spoke during one of her regular visits to the town which she says her late husband, Amir, who bought the power station more than 40 years ago, really loved.
She said the main condition holding up development centres on the preservation of the stone, fabric and features of the former power station and incorporating them into any new development, and an application to have this dismissed is currently with the planning department.
Mrs Josephs also claims that attempts to get planning officials to come out to look at the state of the building have been constantly thwarted, with excuses of sickness, absence and lack of time.
“I know that some people think parts of this building should be kept, but it is not very important architecturally,” she said.
“We told the planners we were quite happy to have the building documented and photos kept in the library, and a plaque put up on whatever new building takes its place, but that’s not enough.
“The former Nairn’s building just along the road was more architecturally interesting than this one, yet it was allowed to be demolished completely without any conditions, so how can that be fair?
“Planners are living in the past. Not many people in the town are even aware of this building – it’s just seen as an eyesore. We want to demolish a dangerous building as soon as possible.
“Children are getting onto the site and setting fires and the fire service has expressed concerns that there could be a serious incident, particularly with the school holidays coming up. We are spending a fortune on security and have put up walls to try to keep them out, but they still get in.
“If planners want the stones and material from the frontage preserved, then it is going to cost any developer far too much to make it worth their while.
“It would involve a lot of time-consuming work bringing it down brick by brick, and it would also be necessary to put up scaffolding and close off a section of this busy main road for around six months to do so, which is quite impractical as well as very costly.
“We have been phoning and writing to the officials since January and have had no satisfactory response. If planners want to come in and take it down themselves, I am happy for them to do so, but we can’t afford that.
“The fact that we put the building up for sale for £1 two years ago and nobody was interested because the conditions were too restrictive speaks for itself.
“We have spent tens of thousands of pounds on this building on reports, security and legal wrangles and it is still standing in a far worse state each year. It needs to come down as soon as possible before it falls down.”
Pam Ewen, senior planning manager, said: “We have received an application to discharge this condition. This is in the final stages of being assessed and is due to be determined by the end of this week.
“The appropriate redevelopment of sites is important, as is retaining our historic built environment where possible.”
“Mrs Josephs has previously spoken to senior management about this application and, although she hasn’t been in touch again, we’d be happy to meet to discuss it in more detail if she wishes.”
Victoria Road Power Station first generated electricity in December 1902 to help power Kirkcaldy’s tramway service. The gallery was extended in 1909 and a store added, with a cooling tower added in 1912 and an engine room in 1922. The tram service stopped in 1931, however, the station continued to provide electricty for the town until as late as the 1960s. It was later purchased by Mr Josephs in the late 1970s just before it was listed. In 2001 Scottish Enterprise was in discussion with the owners about a plan to build houses on the site but this fell through. Planning permission in principle for a care home where the power station currently sits was granted in November 2014.
However, that permission has now lapsed. Detailed planning permission for a retail store within the western part of the overall site was granted planning permission in July 2014. The planning permission for the retail store was renewed in July 2017. Listed building consent for the demolition of the power station and the clearance of the site was granted with conditions in April 2017.