St Andrews green charity waits on review in bid to buy council office

St Mary's Place, St AndrewsSt Mary's Place, St Andrews
St Mary's Place, St Andrews
Councillors have deferred a review on whether to sell a council office to an environmental charity in order to get more information on their own plans for the building.

The St Andrews Environmental Network (StAndEN) has offered to pay the council £100,000 for a Community Asset Transfer of the St Andrews Customer Services Centre in St Mary's Place.

At present, the building - formerly the West Infant School - is used by Fife Council for housing enquiries, and also hosts both StAndEN and Citizens Advice and Rights Fife (CARF) in side offices.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

StAndEN says it would turn the building into a community space with public toilets, office space for rent, a base for energy advice service Cosy Kingdom, an environmental advice hub and an 'eco shop' selling environmentally friendly products. It would also continue to host CARF.

The proposal had been supported by local councillors, the R&A, St Andrews University and MSP Willie Rennie, as well as Historic Scotland and Home Energy Scotland.

However, Fife Council's assets and corporate services sub-committee rejected the charity's bid in August, taking issue with the £100,000 bid on a building with a £500,000 market value - the most the charity says it can afford.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The local authority also turned the application down because it said it intended to continue using the office for public services.

StAndEN claims - as do local councillors - that this was news to them, as the council had intended to close it by the end of 2018, a move that has now apparently been deferred indefinitely. Some services have already been relocated to Cupar.

The charity has appealed on the basis it cannot have funding provided until it has a cast-iron guarantee of buying the building, and was under the impression it was to be mothballed.

At a meeting of the Community Empowerment Act Review Committee on Monday, convener Councillor David Barratt (SNP, Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay) said he would defer the decision until a meeting in the new year so more information could be sought on the council's long-term plans for the building.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Councillors Mino Manekshaw (Scottish Conservative, West Fife and Coastal Villages) told the committee the original ruling "itself does not seem to be aware of what was happening" with the customer services centre.

"The organisation (StAndEN) feels quite fervently the building was closing and it was stepping into rescue it," he said.

"The councillors were totally unaware of the changed status."

In appeal documents presented to the committee, St Andrews councillors Jane Ann Liston (Scottish Liberal Democrat,) and Ann Verner (SNP) both say they were not aware of any reversal of a decision to close the building.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Cllr Liston, in an email dated September 3, said: "At no time was I informed that the disposal of St Mary's Place, St Andrews, had been cancelled. I was under the impression that Fife Council would vacate it entirely."

No date has been set for the next meeting, but it is expected to take place sometime early next year.

Speaking after the meeting Jane Kell, project manager at StAndEN, said she was hopeful that the council would provide clarity on its long-term prospects to put an end to uncertainty over the charity's future plans.

Thank you for reading this article on our free-to-read website. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

Please consider purchasing a subscription to our print newspaper to help fund our trusted, fact-checked journalism.