Fife Council is not in a position to fund an ambitious masterplan to save the ancient Wemyss Caves.
Despite claims it would be “criminal” to lose the network of 12 caves during the current generation, it has been made clear the local authority does not have the budget to implement long-term shoreline protection.
External funding would have to be applied for if the caves, containing several Pictish carvings thought to date from the fifth century, were to be saved from coastal erosion.
That was the conclusion of a discussion at the council’s Levenmouth area committee where a plan of action was scrutinised.
A combination of erosion, coal mining and vandalism has left the internationally important caves at East Wemyss in grave danger and it is feared the rare, historic drawings will be lost for good if nothing is done.
Experts predict that without some form of coastal defence, the sea will breach the entrance to the site within just 50 years.
The plan contains a number of recommendations which could be implemented in the short, medium or long term but councillors have questioned how deliverable they are.
Levenmouth local area manager Dave Paterson said deliverability was the key.
“We are properly mapping and getting digital maps of the caves,” he said.
“The level of academic rigour that has been applied to it has been fantastic.
“Looking at longer term shoreline protection, Fife Council is not in a position to fund that.”
Mr Paterson pointed out the council did not own the land where the caves sit and suggested the focus for now should be education and interpretation.
“An interpretation centre is key to the programme,” he said.
“We have artefacts that pertain to the caves held below the primary school.
“If we can look at an alternative building to hold that it would be great.”
Adding that a coherent approach to managing the caves was needed, he said: “It’s something we should be using as an asset rather than seeing it as a liability.”
A visitor centre and caves trail has been mooted as one way of boosting the area’s tourism potential.
The report will be considered by the council’s executive committee next week.