Charity's bid to take over mothballed Fife Council office rejected

The St Mary's Place council office.The St Mary's Place council office.
The St Mary's Place council office.
A bid by a St Andrews environment charity to take over a mothballed council office has been rejected – but not without criticism of Fife Council’s handling of the situation.

St Andrews Environmental Network (StAndEN) had offered the local authority £100,000 for the customer service centre in St Mary’s Place under community asset transfer legislation.

It wanted to turn the building into a third-sector “eco hub” with office space for other charities to rent after learning that the authority planned to put the building out to pasture.

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Despite this, the council rejected the cut-price offer for the category C-listed property in August – stating that it was not closing the building after all.

On Monday, Fife’s Community Empowerment Act Review committee ultimately upheld the authority’s ruling – but not before striking out some of the reasons for refusal and accusing it of hypocrisy.

Convener Cllr David Barratt struck down officers’ claims that StAndEN needed to consider the impact on council services and had not consulted enough on the plans. StAndEN spoke to hundreds of locals and had gained the support of Historic Environment Scotland and Home Energy Scotland with its plans to turn the building into a showcase of energy efficiency measures.

Cllr Ian Ferguson believes officers should have had a plan for the building’s future if they were demanding one from the charity, while Cllr Mino Manekshaw said the council ought to have consulted on the impact of services instead of criticising StAndEN for not doing so.

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The committee agreed to uphold the refusal on the grounds that StAndEN had not supplied enough evidence of how it would fund the purchase and how the project would benefit the community.

Jane Kell, manager of StAndEN, said she was “disappointed but not surprised” by the decision to uphold the refusal.

“We were pleased that the councillors took on board feedback and removed the clauses that were unfair,” she said. “We were pleased about that, but still disappointed that the decision went against us. Once we have received the formal letter of refusal from the council, the board will meet and review its decision.”