Questions asked over proposal to lease the Byre to university

The Byre Theatre in St Andrews.
The Byre Theatre in St Andrews.

A north east Fife councillor has raised a range of issues which he wants clarified before the Council agrees to lease the Byre Theatre to St Andrews University.

Councillor Tim Brett, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, wants guarantees over future community involvement, and is seeking further information on a number of funding and financial matters.

Last month, the Council’s executive committee agreed the university should be the ‘preferred bidder’ after it considered three proposals to take over the running of the Byre.

Further negotiations are now taking place with the university and the executive committee will make a decision on the future of the theatre at a later meeting.

In a letter to Keith Winter, Fife Council’s director of environment, enterprise and communities, who is leading discussions with the university, Cllr Brett has asked whether Creative Scotland had been consulted about the proposed transfer, and whether it would be sensible to have a valuation of the theatre undertaken at this stage.

He said: “I know that over £4 million of public money went into the theatre and there might be some merit in establishing its current value.

“As you are also probably aware, a significant amount of St Andrews Common Good funding went into the Byre project. If the building is sold to the university, will this money be refunded?”

Cllr Brett suggested that a review after three or five years should be built into the proposed 25-year lease, and wants to see guarantees over the use of the theatre by the community.

“Community involvement is absolutely critical if the local community is to have confidence in the new arrangements,” he said

He called for a proposed liaison group to have greater influence in the running of the Byre, adding: “It will be important the university demonstrates it is taking on board and acting upon views that are made by the community.

Cllr Brett also believes Fife Cultural Trust, which runs other theatres in Fife, should play a role in the programming of events at the Byre.