How Former Forth Park Hospital site in Kirkcaldy became a 'special place to live'

For many it will always be the site of Forth Park Hospital where generations of Fifers took their first breath, but it is 12 years since the last child was delivered there.
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Today it is an enclave of 55 new homes - the last of which filled just recently, marking the conclusion of a development which Keith Davidson, described as the best of projects - and one which could also have broken his company.

Easy Living Homes took on the site after protracted negotiations with NHS Fife, and the transformation from health to homes saw almost every challenge possible thrown in their way. Talks to regenerate Forth Park dated back as far as 2010, but that pace was not new - from patients to patience.

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By the time Glenrothes-based Easy Living Homes came on board, the site was empty and boarded up; one empty hospital, and a listed mansion and mews, both of which had to be preserved.

How the site of Kirkcaldy's former maternity hospital has bene transformed (Pic: Fife Free Press)How the site of Kirkcaldy's former maternity hospital has bene transformed (Pic: Fife Free Press)
How the site of Kirkcaldy's former maternity hospital has bene transformed (Pic: Fife Free Press)

Mr Davidson, managing director, had a determination to “do something different” - but first there were some big issues to address.

“When we got on site, there were travellers on it. Everything had gone,” he said. That was just the first of the challenges as the world was about to spin off its axis

“We had a great contractor on board from day one dealing with a 1970s building with steel frame filled with asbestos which no-one knew anything about - there was nothing in any reports or documents. It was just forgotten about! Our demolition costs went up 75%

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“Everything was condemned. All the wood in the mansion house had to be removed and we kept the facade … and then we found old mine workings.

The new development at Forth Park in Kirkcaldy is now full (Pic: Fife Free Press)The new development at Forth Park in Kirkcaldy is now full (Pic: Fife Free Press)
The new development at Forth Park in Kirkcaldy is now full (Pic: Fife Free Press)

“And then Covid hit and everything stopped for a while. After lockdown, trying to get materials we found prices were massively up. This site could have broken our company, but we were determined to do something different from day one, and what we have created is a little enclave - a really special place to live.”

The development is the first in Scotland to be gas-free - all 55 homes are fully electric. The mansion house that was one on the ‘Buildings At Risk’ register is now in robust health.

It has a rich history dating back to the 1870s when it was owned by Daniel Hendry. Upon his death it was put up for sale, and boasted five bedrooms, a billiard room. Dining room, drawing room, stables and a coach house across three acres of land. It was bought by John Nairn who commissioned James Gillespie & Scott to carry out numerous alterations over the next six decades before the grounds and house were gifted to the town by his daughter, Mrs R Wemyss Honeyman. That led to the creation of Forth Park Maternity Hospital in 1937.

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Much of the mansion house was restored during the development, and a completely new roof added.

“When you look at the building, it is fantastic,” added Mr Davidson. “A lot of stonework was replaced and it looks really nice. The windows especially made in Ireland -no-one here could do them. The mansion was our biggest challenge - the gift that kept taking!”

The work was labour intensive with over 70 on site at one stage.

“We have our own tech team, architects and technicians and we do all our planning with design. We have our own ground workforce - when we put anything in the ground we never want to see them again so we like to do it ourselves. We have our own site manager and everything above the ground is sub contracted out to companies we have known and worked with for a long time.”With the last residents moving in recently - three years after the first - the project can now be signed off, and focus moved on to other developments in Fife.

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“We are busy,” said the MD. “We like to have three to five years of work ahead of us at all times.”That workload started in 2013, two years after launching, with a development in Lochgelly, and a commercial development for Iceland and Lloyds in Minto Place, Glenrothes. The company was also behind the transformation of Glenrothes town centre, relocating the CISWO to state of the art premises - “they possibly have the best social club in Scotland” - to make way for M&S and other retailers sitting parallel to the Kingdom Centre.

Its focus now is on completing East Wemyss and Coaltown, with a site at Cupar Muir and more in the pipeline. Castle Gait in East Wemyss launched early in 2022, and 80 of the 100 properties are now sold amidst challenging global conditions - many through word-of-mouth recommendations.

Known for a far greater house type choice than the typical volume builder, Easy Living Homes has offered as many as 14 different types of properties at Castle Gait.

Karen Cameron, sales manager, said: “We've always had a very unique product position in the marketplace. Our properties are far removed from the typical new build product. Some of the best feedback we’ve had from buyers is that our homes have the look and feel of a home you have designed yourself to order.”

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At Forth Park there is some minor landscaping to be completed at the entrance, but a site which once saw expectant parents come and go on a daily basis is snow a tr4anbquil place to stay, and the mansion house that sits at its centre - and which can be seen from the top of the town - has never looked better. Daniel Hendry and John Nairn would surely have approved.

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