Levenmouth poised for 'once in a lifetime' chance to be transformed
The Levenmouth area of Fife is primed for a "once in a lifetime" chance at reinvigoration once the Covid-19 pandemic has been put to bed, council chiefs say.
A new report on the region presented to councillors noted that while Levenmouth has its challenges promising new projects such as the reimagined rail link, a third sector high street unit takeover and a hydrogen heating scheme will bring long-term growth.
Levenmouth area convener Cllr Ken Caldwell said: “The past year has been a very testing time for our economy,
"However, this is an exciting time for Levenmouth, with the coming of the rail link and the various major projects that are currently planned and in progress.
“The committee is working with council officers and local community groups to ensure we can derive the most benefit from this once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The Levenmouth economic profile, prepared by Fife Council, details that the region and its towns have escalating problems with town centre vacancies and unemployment that have been supercharged by the coronavirus pandemic.
Empty units in town centres have gone from making up 15.2% of all units in April 2016 to 20.1% in June 2020. Council officers say this figure is likely to rise once the full impact of Covid-19 has been assessed.
And the number of benefit claimants has risen from around 6.2% of the working-age population to 9% since the virus struck, a rise of 600 people.
Levenmouth has the poorest unemployment rate of all Fife areas, with the mothballing of BiFab's Methil yard in 2018 dealing a particularly heavy blow to the area.
A third of all Levenmouth 16-64 year-olds are considered "economically inactive" - neither employed, nor looking for a job - and on average they are less likely to hold qualifications to help them find better-paying jobs.
Cllr Caldwell added: "We've currently got very high levels of deprivation and the highest unemployment claimant rate in Fife. I think one of the major causes of this is that we have a very high level of population with no or very low levels of qualifications.
"But we do have organisations in the area providing alternative routes to help people gain qualifications and get into apprenticeships."
Despite the challenges, Fife Council officers are confident that future investment in the area will reverse the more troubling trends.
A new decommissioning facility is to open at the wide-ranging Fife Energy Park, creating around 50 jobs, and SGN are creating an £18 million hydrogen demonstration project in the same complex.
Meanwhile Fife Council and the Scottish Government are optimistic that the new Levenmouth rail link and its accompanying £10 million Blueprint fund will encourage economic development in communities alongside the train tracks.
Elsewhere, social enterprise BRAG is set to complete its purchase of the former WH Smith newsagent in Leven High Street, which it plans to convert into a community hub with public discussion space and leisure activities such as mini-golf.
And the Fife Employment Access Trust continues to work on its plans to restore the Silverburn Flax Mill alongside its existing successful glamping business.