Fife Council’s ‘bizarre’ decision to reject environment group’s bid for St Andrews local office slammed

Fife Council’s decision to reject a local environment group’s bid to take over a St Andrews building has been branded ‘bizarre’.

St Andrews Environmental Network (StAndEN) had hoped to buy the St Andrews Customer Service Centre at St Mary’s Place and use it to offer environmental services, as well as hiring out space to local groups, running workshops, and establishing an eco shop selling products made in an environmentally conscious manner.

The group argued that it had outgrown its current space and the environmental projects would benefit the community.

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However, that was not enough for councillors on the assets and corporate services committee, which rejected the application.

Councillors were told that there would be a potential loss of a capital receipt of at least £400k, as the building is worth £500,000 and the group was offering £100,000 to purchase the building.

It was also argued that the local services and CARF would have to move to Cupar.

Jane Kell, project manager at StAndEN, said she was “disappointed” by the decision. She accused the council of being misleading when it suggested customer services and CARF would be forced to move if the transfer was approved, noting other services have already been moved.

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She added: “The key point, however, is that our offer will provide the local community with a range of facilities that is not likely to be matched by any other purchaser of the building.”

Ms Kell said the group would look at appealing the decision.

Councillor Jane Ann Liston added: “It is bizarre that Fife Council objected to the transfer on the grounds that it needed it to deliver services, when over two years ago the same Fife Council declared that it was its intention to dispose of the building, as part of the rationalising of council buildings. Indeed, some services have already been moved out to elsewhere in the town.”

The St Andrews councillor said it was “disingenuous” for Fife Council to cite the displacement of CARF and other services as a reason for refusing the transfer, when, had Fife Council managed to sell the building as it intended, these same services would have been displaced anyway.

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She added: “It’s wrong for Fife Council to object to the StAndEN proposal when it has no qualms about moving services from St Andrews to Cupar when it suits it, as it did with marriage registration, despite objections.”

Cllr Liston also revealed that Fife Council had not consulted the St Andrews councillors about the transfer, nor had it indicated that its plans for St Mary’s Place had changed.

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