EXCITING proposals to transform an eyesore in the heart of the conservation area in St Andrews town centre into a community garden have taken a significant step forward.
Planning consent has been issued by Fife Council for the conversion of the derelict piece of ground at No1 Greyfriars Garden to form a public garden facility.
Permission has been granted to St Andrews Preservation Trust Ltd., whose plans for the parcel of land will reflect the connection to the Franciscan brothers - they once occupied the site - and to Mary Queen of Scots, who gifted all former church lands in St Andrews to the provost, baillies, councillors and community of St Andrews on the day of her abdication on April 7, 1567.
Eventually, with the agreement of the Marie Stuart Society, it is hoped to erect a life-size statue of Mary, together with displayed poetry by and about the Queen.
The formal planning approval is for the formation of a public garden, including installation of an information board, seating, statue and paved area and the lowering of existing stone wall.
A spokesman for the trust told the Citizen: ”We are confident of fulfilling conditions attached to the planning consent, especially the need for a scheme of management and aftercare agreed with Fife Council.”
Jimmy Macgregor, former vice-chairman of the trust, has been working with a small group to take the planning for the project forward to fruition.
The plans approved by the council were drawn up by former trustee Dr Robert Steedman, while a current trustee has indicated a willingness to pledge an amount which would cover the purchase price of the ground at a reasonable valuation.
However, further funding would be required for the conversion of the garden and the erection of the statue which will be a scaled up version of a model - a maquette - which already exists.
The spokesman concluded: ”The issue now moves on to negotiations on the purchase of the ground. The trust very much hopes that it will be possible to come to an agreement with the current owner of the site, given its ever deteriorating condition.”
The ground, which was part of the historic site of Greyfriars Chapel - it is understood to be owned at present by a Perthshire man - is derelict and regarded as a blot on the landscape.
Sadly neglected at the corner of Greyfriars Garden and St Mary’s Place, it is constantly littered with debris, including empty bottles, fast food containers, tins and other rubbish.
The garden has been the subject of concern since the mid-1990s and has had a number of previous owners.
St Andrews Community Council has made numerous attempts over the years to have it cleared and converted into a community garden, but all its efforts proved unsuccessful.