Plans for a new lifeboat station at Anstruther have been approved by councillors – although a question mark remains over the future of the existing historic building.
Members of Fife Council’s north east planning committee agreed to rubber-stamp the RNLI’s blueprint for a purpose-built facility on the East Shore.
It will accommodate an upgrade of the village’s all-weather lifeboat to a newer Shannon class vessel, which could reduce life-saving response times.
But a separate application for conservation area consent to knock down the existing base – which was built in 1904 – to make way for car parking was also approved, despite community calls to save it.
Elected members voted 8-3 in favour of the demolition after being told by officials that refusal could effectively put the plans for the new station, which have been widely welcomed, at risk.
The hope now is that another solution to alleviate the car parking situation at Anstruther’s waterfront can be found in the next 12 to 18 months so the demolition consent will not be needed and the existing building can be put to good use.
At the meeting’s outset, Conservative councillor Tony Miklinski questioned why both applications could not be considered at the same time, as demolition of the existing station could alter perceptions of the application for the new one.
Solicitor Steven Paterson said it was his “clear and unequivocal” advice that there was no legal basis for them to run concurrently.
After the RNLI’s plans for the new station were unanimously approved, the focus turned to the existing station.
Planner Chris Smith said refusal of the demolition consent could limit the RNLI’s ability to meet conditions relating to the new station application and it was his his belief that the demolition should be granted.
He said that would leave an interim period of up to a year-and-a-half, during which the RNLI, Fife Council and the community could look at alternative solutions for car parking in the area.
SNP councillor John Docherty said he was disappointed to see his motion for refusal voted down.
“We have to reflect the views of the community and this is a much-loved building that they do not want to see demolished,” he said.
Thirty-eight letters of objection specifically against the demolition consent were lodged with the council.
East Neuk independent councillor Linda Holt said the decision could lead to an “act of unnecessary vandalism” and it was based purely on the hope that Fife Council, the RNLI and others would come up with alternative parking plans.
“There is nothing to stop them not bothering and pushing ahead with demolition in 12-18 months time when the new shed becomes operational,” she said.
“Exploring options for the retention of the old shed should have happened long before these applications came to committee, and it is highly negligent of Fife Council to have ignored the need for an overall parking strategy for Anstruther for so long.
“That need has now become critical, or else Anstruther will lose a much-loved local heritage building.”