Glenwood centre let down by years of indifference

Glenwood Centre, Glenrothes
Glenwood Centre, Glenrothes
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As the debate continues as to the future of the Glenwood Centre, the Gazette takes a look at the possible options.

Years of neglect, lack of investment, crime, vandalism, anti-social behaviour, receivership and the lack of any meaningful future planning are just some of the reasons why Glenwood Centre has been failing in recent years.

Residents, tenants and business owners have been let down by a succession of Council administrations, with little or no tangible support from those who have been in a position to make it a priority.

The report to the town’s area committee last week stating Glenwood was “not a priority” because of it not occupying a “prominent position” within the town, can be viewed as nothing less than an own goal on behalf of the administration and highlights the exact attitude that has contributed to the centre’s demise.

Clearly, Glenwood’s recent history is a complex one and rooted both in social as well as economical issues that no quick fix can answer.

But councillors of all political persuasion must take a share of the responsibility for letting the problems fester and multiply.

Merely choosing Glenwood as a backdrop to an election campaign or voicing concerns that never get followed up is simply an insult to the residents of west Glenrothes, if those very same long-suffering residents don’t see change in any form.

It must be said that a renewed focus by the police to tackle a range of crime within the area has made significant results.

And with the few tenants and business owners currently operating in the precinct more committed to the long-term viability of the centre, the situation is certainly changing for the better.

But what can be done?

Find a buyer:

With the centre’s previous landlords - Glacy and Light Ltd - in liquidation over two and a half years ago and the affairs of the centre being handled by Edinburgh-based firm, Bagbies Traynor Ltd since, finding a buyer for the centre has been fraught with difficulty.

A spokesman for the administrators said they remained committed to finding a suitable long-term deal for the precinct but conceded very little interest had been shown from retail or property investors.

Council investment:

To be fair to the Council, it has taken on board several aspects of the upkeep including responsibility for car parking and small scale repairs.

In terms of serious investment, Councillor Altany Craik admits the authority’s “hands are tied” in terms of the current situation.

Debating the issue of dilapidated buildings across the town members of the Glenrothes Area Committee have not ruled out compulsory purchase orders, but that is unrealistic in terms of Glenwood, especially in these financially strapped times.

Knock it down and start again:

Financially, a massive undertaking for anyone, albeit an attractive one. Not much chance of it happening anytime soon, but as Auchmuty tenants have proved in recent weeks, major investment via grants such as Big Lottery funding can be secured. Support and a solid commitment from Fife Council would surely have to go hand-in-hand if it was to succeed.

Community ownership:

Scottish Govenment’s Community Empowerment Bill bringing commercial sector, local community groups and the local authority together in a programme of revitalisation is a possibility. Consideration and a great deal of organisation and commitment to bring it to fruition would have to be instilled in all parties It’s difficult to see that happening any time soon.

Promotion of existing businesses and new retail developments:

In the short term, the most viable option could be to build on the impetus of recent new developments around the Glenwood site.

With the pub now demolished and new retail units planned, businesses opening up in new units adjacent to the centre and a planned taxi rank and office on the former petrol station, signs of recovery are evident. A focused approach to bring in small retailers and business options within the centre is seen by many as the most achievable option. To achieve that would mean commitment from those in office, something that has been lacking in recent times.

The potential for the Glenwood Centre to return to being a vibrant and successful hub serving a number of communities in the west of the town must be seen as the ultimate goal, to rule it out simply because of geography is both insulting and unacceptable, it’s time Glenwood was really made a priority, and not just at election time.

Youngsters planting for a sustainable future

Council officers may be accused of not seeing the plight of the Glenwood Centre as a priority, but when it comes to healthy eating, local youngsters certainly have a positive future in mind.

Tanshall Primary School pupils have just planted the first of several planned edible garden patches, in disused and once overgrown boarders within the west Glenrothes precinct.

The dual aim is to generate a range of edible herbs and fruits from the planting that will be available for anyone within the community to help themselves.

It’s also hoped that the plants, including several strawberry cuttings will supply a little extra produce that even the local community cafe would be able to draw from.

Kirsty Strachan, community education worker, who was on hand to help the P7 pupils, said the project has the potential to be a huge success.

“It’s a great idea that has been developed by the children themselves, they have come up with the initiative which shows they have a genuine interest health and the environment in which they live,” Kirsty explained.

And if the edible planting project proves a success the youngsters have already earmarked several other boarders surrounding the car park for possible attention.

“We now want the community as a whole to embrace what the children have started,” said Kirsty.

“People outwith the area were critical of the children putting up a Christmas tree, saying that it wouldn’t last five minutes but the community got right behind the youngsters and were full of praise for doing such a thing in Glenwood. I think locals will see the pupils latest efforts in a similar light.”

Bob Hutchinson, a trustee involved in the running of St Ninian’s charity shop and community cafe in the precinct was full of praise for the idea.

“What better statement of the future of this centre than that of the children wanting to get involved in improving it, we are happy to give them as much support as we can.

“It’s a fantastic idea that will benefit everyone and has the potential to grow and grow.”