Final ‘no’ to West Sands visitor centre

The West Sands visitor centre won't be going ahead.
The West Sands visitor centre won't be going ahead.

Plans for a new visitor centre at St Andrews iconic West Sands have again been rejected after an appeal by Fife Coast and Countryside Trust (FCCT) to the Scottish Government.

The Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) reporter has rejected the appeal, saying: “the impact of the design, scale and massing of the proposed visitor centre building would harm the visual and landscape amenity of the surroundings to an unacceptable degree, in contravention of other policy matters.

“Given the unique significance of the location, these shortcomings are of overriding importance, so that overall, I am satisfied the proposal does not accord with the development plan.”

However, the reporter, Sinead Lynch did recognise the need for new facilities at West Sands: “I agree with all parties that the current facilities at West Sands are out-dated and of poor quality in terms of their structural integrity and appearance,” she said, continuing: “It is also clear that the principle of replacing the current facilities on the appeal site is not in dispute. Rather, the primary issue is the proposed height of the new visitor centre and the new lifeguard station.

“Concerns are also expressed about the finishes and materials to be used on the visitor centre, as well as its likely impact on landscape and visual amenity, especially in the above important environmental and landscape context.”

Ms Lynch added: “I am satisfied that the proposed design of the visitor centre is appropriate and the colour and finish of the roof cladding would suit the location and the building design.”

However, she said that the building would visitor centre would “detract substantially” from the landscape setting of the area and and that the landscape would be “marred” by the height of the proposed visitor centre which she described as being “out of place” in a vista dominated by golf links and golf related development.

Ms Lynch went on: “I am satisfied that the potential impact on the setting of any listed buildings, including the Royal and Ancient Golf Clubhouse, would not be so negative as to warrant dismissal of the appeal.

However, she added: “I am satisfied that the proposed new visitor centre is not appropriate in its current form and it would not enhance the wider area.”

FCCT Chief Executive Amanda McFarlane was clearly disappointed with the outcome, commenting: “We still believe that an iconic site such as the West Sands should have the best possible facilities.

“It is regrettable that the vision created by the Trust and the Architects could not be brought to fruition for the benefit of the local community and visitors to the area.”

The £1.5 million centre, featuring an innovative interlocking shell design, was first rejected at a controversial meeting of Fife Council’s north-east planning committee last year.