Councillors halt skatepark plan which split community in Fife town
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On Wednesday morning, North East Fife Area committee councillors effectively pulled the plug on the Anstruther Skatepark project due to a lack of community cohesion. The decision taken by the area committee put a stop to two years of work and consultation to develop an East Neuk skatepark.
An appraisal looked at three site options for the skatepark, and the committee was asked to pick the best one to take forward for the next stage - the project was abandoned in a six to five vote with three councillors abstaining.
The East Neuk Skatepark has been a contentious debate in the local community for the last couple of years. A group of Waid Academy Pupils first brought their ambitions to the council in 2021 and secured partial funding including £20,000 approved by the area committee last March.
The committee instructed Anstruther Skatepark Group to carry out a community consultation with a full options appraisal and a preferred location outcome. That came back with Bankie Park in Anstruther as top choice.
However, a large number of residents and community groups objected to the development in the village's largest open green space.
In April, the committee reviewed the consultation results and was asked to recognise the preferred location for the skatepark as Bankie Park. Instead, it required the council to undertake its own options appraisal and project designs. Sites in West Braes, Pittenweem; Waid Academy; and Bankie Park were all considered.
Bankie Park was ultimately scored as the most appropriate option, but council officers stressed that there was no community cohesion or agreement for any of the sites.
“It’s a very big emotive issue in the community and it’s very difficult to come to a conclusion on that today to present to the committee about the three sites,” a council officer said.
The council's options appraisal was finally presented this week with the aim of taking one of three sites forward. However, councillors ultimately decided to scrap the plans entirely.
Councillor Allan Knox (Lib-Dem for Tay Bridgehead) put forward the motion to end the project, and Cllr Robin Lawson (Conservative for St Andrews) supported it.
“I have supported [this decision] because I can see that there is so much anguish within the community and I think that we have gone through the hoops and looked at every possible opportunity and we haven’t come up with a solution which most people can accept,” Cllr Lawson said.
Councillors Sean Dillon (Lib-Dem for East Neuk and Landward) and Cllr Alycia Hayes (SNP for East Neuk and Landward) both pressed to move forward with the Bankie Park site.
Cllr Dillon emphasised that the situation has been difficult for everyone regardless of which side they have supported.
“This has not been an easy decision for any of us given the strong feelings that have come from both sides," he said, "and I hope whatever the decision is, the community starts to heal.”
Before the site evaluation debate began, the committee heard deputations from both sides of the argument.
Representatives from the ‘Please Keep Bankie Park Green Again’ and ‘Friends of Bankie Park’ groups asked committee members to keep the skatepark out of the park.
Meanwhile, representatives from the Anstruther Skatepark Group asked the committee to respect Bankie Park as the best option.
“Bankie Park is Anstruther’s only large green community space. By reducing or fragmenting the square open shape of the park into small areas it would reduce inclusivity and prevent it from holding big events or for air ambulances to be able to land. These are critical points. Bankie must be preserved as it is and any additions must be sympathetic and not detrimental to the wider community,” a Bankie skatepark objector told the committee.
“Choosing the correct site for a skatepark would allow East Neuk to have two amazing assets rather than compromising one.”
Spokespersons for the Anstruther Skatepark Group also presented their side of the argument.
They said the skatepark would likely take up only 2% of Bankie Park and emphasised that no existing facilities or sports pitches would be compromised.
“We haven’t been able to show the vision and discuss the potential location in detail. That’s where I think we’re going to be able to address a lot of these concerns,” a spokesperson for the group said.
“It’s very easy to go out and sell fear and say this is going to be terrible, we’re going to have anti-social behaviour, and it's going to look awful. On the flip side, unless you’re showing what is possible we’re not going to have a realistic debate.”
He continued: “That’s what we’re asking - can we go forward into a design phase where we can address these fears and have a real conversation because at the moment this is all superfluous. We’re making up these problems where they might not exist. A lot of concerns can be addressed through good design and considerate placement.”