An ambitious plan to build a £55 million pier and 100ft whale sculptures in Levenmouth received an overwhelmingly positive response at the first public meeting about the project last week.
Over the course of an hour, Cllr Graham Ritchie explained his idea for the tourism attraction, before answering questions from a packed audience at the Fife Renewables Innovation Centre.
He confirmed that “not one penny” would come from Fife Council, saying that the project would need to receive funding from a variety of sources, including donations from businesses and individuals. However, he would be seeking at least half of the funding needed from the lottery.
He admitted that the £55 million tag attached to the project was a “guess” – a figure half way between the cost for the Kelpies and Dundee’s V&A.
His other key message was that this project would need to be driven by the community.
“It’s a community-led development,” Cllr Ritchie explained.
“It will need to come from the people. It’s to try and boost the economic activity in the area.
“It is also a tourist based enterprise. This is about getting people to visit the area.”
While his vision is for the pier and whale sculptures to be major tourist attractions, with a visitor centre and restaurant also attached, he is keen for the public to drive this forward and get involved.
The first stage is for a steering group to be set up, which will seek funding to set up a legal structure. Once that structure is formed, then a board will be created, with the aim of finding funds for a business case and feasibility study.
Cllr Ritchie also spoke about his belief that the project would “boost economic activity in the area” and boost jobs – he wants BiFab to be involved in the construction of the project.
It is hoped the pier and sculptures would attract around half a million visitors every month.
He also wants the project to run on green energy, adding: “Part of my vision is that this will hold up the area’s green credentials and say ‘we care about our environment’.”
“I’m tired of Levenmouth being brushed aside,” said Cllr Ritchie.
“It happens far too often.
“I want this to be permanent. These sculptures will be the biggest in the world.”
The plan is that the pier will also generate money, with a £2 entry fee to get on. Funding will also be generated by the restaurant, the visitor centre and the shop, all on the pier.
Response from the public
The response from those inside the room was overwhelmingly positive. A sea of hands went up when Cllr Ritchie asked if they wanted him to push forward with his vision.
The comments made were also positive. Two members of the Levenmouth Rail Campaign spoke up in favour of the project, while councillors from both Labour and the SNP showed their support for the project.
Cllr David Graham said he is “sick” of the tagline that Levenmouth is the “gateway to the East Neuk”, adding: “I 100 per cent support Graham’s efforts with this.”
Cllr Alistair Suttie said: “It’s a great initiative. It’ll be a fantastic thing for Leven.”
Speaking about the positive effect the project could have on the local tourism industry, one member of the audience said: “I think it is a fabulous idea. It will make Levenmouth into a short stay destination. This will give people another reason to stay longer in Fife.
“This project is what we need in this area.”
One person did warn those in attendance to keep their “expectations at a reasonable level”.
He added: “I am sceptical whether you can pull the funding together. But I do applaud the vision.”
Cllr Ritchie was also asked about the location of the pier. He told the audience that he wanted it to “be as close to the bus station end as possible”, adding: “I’ve not heard a better way of regenerating the town centre.”