A Fife minister’s plans to convert a hotel into a homeless hostel have prompted fears vulnerable people could be left to walk the streets.
Rev Ryan Robertson is part of a company that wants to provide accommodation for people affected by substance misuse or mental health issues.
The project will be based at the former Greenside Hotel in Leslie, if councillors grant planning permission for the change.
But an attempt to quell local concerns during a meeting of Leslie Community Council appears to have stoked further anxiety.
Those attending the online session have expressed discomfort at Mr Robertson’s “zero tolerance” approach to substance use on the premises.
And they fear his policy of not allowing anyone under the influence into the premises could lead to problems in residential streets near the hotel.
Mr Robertson has now released more details of the project in response to the concerns in a bid to put minds at rest.
What are the community’s concerns?
Thirty-six people who live near the Greenside Hotel have lodged formal objections to the planning application.
One local man said the proposal appeared to be “very loose and fluffy”.
“There were a lot of people asking a lot of questions at the meeting and Mr Robertson didn’t appear to have any answers,” he said.
This plan is of real concern to the community.”
Leslie councillor Jan Wincott.
“He was asked what would happen if someone turned up under the influence at night and he said they’d be told to walk it off.
“That means we could potentially have vulnerable and desperate people wandering the streets of Leslie.”
The man, who asked not to be named, also expressed concerns about the credentials of those running the hostel.
“Our concerns aren’t about the idea in principle,” he said. “They’re more about the group.”
Leslie Community Council chairman John Wincott said the organisation’s objections were on planning considerations.
“It’s too early to scrap a hotel that’s been a feature of Leslie for more than 100 years,” he said.
“Although the applicant has said it’s been on the market since 2018, the truth is for 18 months of that we’ve been in lockdown.
“Nobody is going to be looking to purchase a hotel in such a troubled time.”
Mr Wincott’s wife, Labour councillor Jan Wincott, is also concerned.
“A lot of people raised concerns about Mr Robertson’s qualifications to run something like this,” she said
“Also, it’s effectively our only hotel and it’s been a great music venue.
“This plan is of real concern to the community, particularly to nearish neighbours.”
Who is behind the Greenside Hotel plan?
Mr Robertson is a minister at the Glenrothes-based New Hope Community Church, an independent church which does not appear to be affiliated to any mainstream denomination.
The minister is also one of five directors of New Hope Community House Fife Ltd, which has applied for planning permission to convert the hotel on Leslie High Street.
The company was registered on May 4, five weeks after the planning application was submitted.
Mr Robertson says it will be a non-profit company set up to prevent or relieve poverty and other causes of homelessness among people across Scotland.
The company will work with his church and Green Pastures, a charity which equips churches to help the homeless.
Parish Nursing and Christians Against Poverty are also involved.
According to Mr Robertson, all staff will have to meet the standards set by social care regulator the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).
The company’s response
Mr Robertson said residents of the hostel would be strictly monitored.
They will go through a selection process involving interviews and professional assessment before being offered a place.
“Residents accepted in to New Hope Community House Fife will need to prove they are no longer under the influence of alcohol and using any controlled substances,” he said.
We hold with great importance our duty of care to our community, as well as to our future residents.”
Reverend Ryan Robertson.
Each resident will be asked to commit to conditions banning them from displaying aggression causing a nuisance, and possessing or using drugs or legal highs.
They will also be banned from playing loud music and making any noise that can be heard outside their bedrooms between 10pm and 7am.
Mr Robertson said: “We aim to fully engage with the local community in many ways in order to benefit the town of Leslie, and the wider community of Glenrothes.
“We hold with great importance our duty of care to our community, as well as to our future residents.”