New eco-project threatens future of riding school

Barbara Harrison, who owns Remus Equestrian Centre in South Dundonald, faces an uncertain future. Pic: FPA
Barbara Harrison, who owns Remus Equestrian Centre in South Dundonald, faces an uncertain future. Pic: FPA

The owner of a popular riding school near Cardenden claims Fife Council’s new eco-project expansion could put her out of business.

Barbara Harrison, who runs Remus Equestrian Centre in South Dundonald, was left with just one essential field after the local authority took back two others from her in June.

Her worst fears were realised when she received another letter from property agents Savill’s last week, informing her their client - Fife Council - would not be renewing the field’s lease in March next year.

The letter stated: “Fife Council have started a new energy crop project which means areas of their agricultural land are being taken back in hand.

It added: “Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Mrs Harrison had leased all three fields from the council for eight years and relied on the largest 40 acre field as grazing land for her stable of 33 horses.

The riding school currently serves 150 customers a week.

“I’ve had to bid for the fields every year through Savill’s which is a nuisance and pay them a substantial amount of money to ensure they are mine,“ said Mrs Harrison.

“This is going to destroy our business because I can’t operate without that field.

“The irony is the council talk about getting small businesses up-and-running in Fife!”

She added: “They are also taking fields away from local farmers and I’m surprised they aren’t up in arms.”

The energy crop project will plant reed canary grass which can be processed through an anaerobic digestion plant.

Methane is produced to generate electricity as well as a compost to spread onto crops in future.

Councillor Ian Chisholm said: “On the face of it this is a precipitate decision severely affecting a small business – I’m afraid it looks like bully boy tactics by Fife Council.

“This is a decision which must be challenged by elected members and I will be calling on our CEO Steve Grimmond to stop this high handed action until I can take it to the appropriate elected member scrutiny committee.”

Michael McArdle, lead professional with the council’s estate’s team, said: “We terminated a number of short-term leases, including Mrs Harrison’s, so that we had land available to programme in suitable sites for our energy crop project.

“We’ve now done this and are reviewing the list so that we can offer any sites that we no longer need back to current leaseholders.”

He concluded: “We’re hoping to be in touch with those tenants by the end of the month.”