Fears are growing for the future of an historic Fife mining monument, which has been left fenced off and crumbling away.
The Mary Pit Head winding tower in Lochore Meadows Country Park, which has been a prominent feature on the landscape for over 100 years, has been fenced off since last June, amid concerns for public safety.
Falling masonry from the tower forced owners Fife Council to cordon it off.
It is the first reinforced concrete structure of its kind built in Scotland and thought to be the oldest surviving tower of its kind in the UK.
The tower was awarded Scheduled Monument status in 2000.
Now the council has been accused of neglect for allowing the monument to decay.
Tom Kinnaird, chairman of Benarty Community Council, said: “Warnings were given to the local authority years ago but fell on deaf ears.
“Fife Council has neglected their duty to apply for the costs of works which would prevent the structural degradation we are seeing now.
“This imposing structure is one of the last remaining reminders of Fife’s rich mining heritage, it is of significant historic importance and every effort must be put into seeing it preserved.
“The concern now is that further decay will render the monument unrepairable and will lead to it having to it being pulled down.”
At its peak, Mary Colliery produced 800 tonnes of coal per day and by 1957 employed 780 people.
It was closed in 1966 as part of restoration of the area, which is now Lochore Meadows Country Park.
Addressing the concerns at a meeting of Cowdenbeath area committee, Ian Laing, the council’s park manager, acknowledged the council has a duty of care for the monument but said it had not been its intention to let it fall into disrepair.
He said: “Historic Environment Scotland were contacted after the first reports of fragments falling off the structure and have been kept informed.
“Unfortunately funding application to allow for repair work was turned down in December 2020 as that body doesn’t fund that kind of thing.
“They directed us to two other funding opportunities but unfortunately we have now been told that they are not open to local authorities.”
Mr Laing added that a suggestion to paint the structure were also turned down by Historic Environment Scotland, who indicated that a monument such as this should be retained in the manner in which it was built.
“Discussions are continuing within Fife Council to see how this can be taken forward,” he said.
Councillor Lea McLelland said it was vital the monument was saved form further decay.
“The monument is such a big part of Fife’s mining heritage and regardless of where the money comes from we should never stop looking after it,” she said.
The committee agreed to find the £5,000 now needed to carry out a structural survey to assess the level of damage of the structure.