Fife hair salon owner fears for business as dilapidated precinct faces bulldozers
The owner of a decades-old Fife salon says the forced sale of their unit could spell the end of the business.
Brent Burnett, 46, believes Glenwood Salon's days are numbered if Fife Council fails to work with him to find it a new home locally in Glenrothes.
He said: "The council said it wasn't going to put me out of business but I feel like I've been lied to.
"I've been here since I was 16. I took it over from my mum and built it up. Now it feels like there is no future.
"I was assured that the future of the shop was secure but this? This is legalised theft."
The salon was opened by Brent's mum Margaret in the 1970s and passed to him in the 1980s. Now it is one of just a handful of businesses left operating in the Glenwood Centre.
Once a major shopping district in west Glenrothes, the complex of flats and commercial units has been left to flounder after its last owners, Glacy and Light, entered administration in 2012.
Following years of complaints about anti-social behaviour, Fife councillors agreed to spend £1.5 million buying up the 16 retail units and 24 flats above in 2019 through a mechanism known as a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) in order to knock them down.
However, the Glenwood CPO has been jammed by formal objections from the landlord and tenant of one commercial unit who say the council is "bullying" them out of the site.
An inquiry is set to take place later this year conducted by the Scottish Government's planning appeals division to determine whether the buy-out can proceed.
Mr Burnett is not among the formal objectors, but says he has had back-and-forths with councillors and council officers over the future of the Glenwood Salon - not least where it and its five full-time workers might go in future.
He believes the stress of the situation - coupled with other factors in his personal life - contributed to a nervous breakdown last summer.
"The problem we have as a hairdressing business is that we have built up a clientele here," he added.
"It's all well and good to say 'just relocate elsewhere' but we would be starting from scratch.
"People aren't going to walk halfway across Glenrothes to get their hair cut. If we move, that's 30 years of clients gone up in smoke.
"I would say about 60% of our customers are regulars, so moving would be an uphill struggle - and that's before we consider the impacts of Covid."
When the CPO process began in 2019, Mr Burnett said suggestions had been made of relocating the salon into a social work office on the other side of Roxburgh Road.
However, these claims have been denied by Fife Council sources, who say the office remains in use.
One source said: "Nobody would have said to the salon that definitely they would get this, that or the other. But we will do all we can to relocate anybody that's being affected by this. We'll be looking to do our best to relocate them."
Public consultation in 2017 found that locals favoured knocking down the Glenwood Centre and replacing it with a new-build community hub.
And while a report published two years ago teased such a development entering the formal planning process, there has been little noise since.
Mr Burnett says he would accept a direct swap from one unit to another if a new Glenwood appeared, but contests that the council will not entertain the prospect - offering him the lease of a unit rather than a like-for-like exchange.
His only other alternative if he wants to stay in the local area is to rent a unit from the new-build Newbridge Retail Park next door at £1,500 a month - a price he brands "ludicrous".
"All I want is to get my salon back at the end of all this," he summed up.
"Why should we have to lease a unit from the council when we own this one?
"I've paid my taxes for 30 years, council tax, business rates, and this is the thanks I get?
"I don't want compensation - I want what's mine. It's been a family business since the 1980s, and this was going to be my pension.
"There's no Plan B. I'm not building up a new business now at 46. It would take years to build up again elsewhere.
"It's not about the money - they could offer me £1m - It's the principle.
"I've got two girls wanting to take up hairdressing, but now I can't give to my daughters what my mum gave to me."
Fife Council says it is continuing to work with business owners operating in the Glenwood to help them relocate - including reimbursing "reasonable costs" associated with moving where required.
Andy Maclellan, community projects team manager, said: “We’re working with the local community to regenerate the Glenwood Centre and make it a place where people want to live, and businesses want to open.
“As part of the process, a CPO is in place and the District Valuer has been appointed to act for the council in settling claims arising from the commercial properties at the Centre.
“While we can’t get into the detail of individual claims, we are continuing discussions with Mr Burnett about the process and the future location of his business.
"We will reimburse reasonable costs in making arrangements to relocate, although making those arrangements is the owner's responsibility.”