The owner of a prominent former Fife hotel has maintained works at the premises during lockdown have not breached any regulations.
Fife Council is investigating activity at the boarded up C-listed building, which overlooks the Forth, and the Health and Safety Executive has also been alerted.
Local SNP councillor David Barratt said it was “not clear if the works being carried out would require a building warrant or planning permission” and has discussed the matter with the council and Police Scotland.
Kenny Waugh, who has owned the building for about 14 years, said he was willing to meet council officials and had spoken to police officers who had visited the premises.
“We’re emptying all the rubbish out of the building so we can get insurance for the building,” he said.
Rumours have been circulating locally that the interior of the building is being converted into flats.
Mr Waugh said this was not the case, adding “we’ve not got planning for that”.
However, he said he was exploring alternative uses for the building, including residential use.
“It might well be flats at the end of the day but that would have to be subject to planning.
“The building needs a lot of money to be opened up as a pub again, and I don’t think there’s the finance for pubs.
“Financially, it was always going to be difficult but now, with Covid-19, who knows what’s going to happen to pubs in the coming years.”
He said contractors were repairing a retaining wall to the rear of the hotel and there was also work to expose dry rot in the cellar, adding just he and his son were in the building.
Suggestions the Albert could cease functioning as a pub have caused concern among local residents.
Iain Mitchell, who chairs North Queensferry Community Council, said: “The Albert was a vital part of the social life of the village, and it is both depressing and infuriating to see it lying empty, boarded up, and left to deteriorate for so long, especially since there are people out there who are anxious to buy it and reopen it.
“The village needs this resource, and there’s a demand from potential purchasers, so the time is long past for Mr Waugh either to reopen the hotel himself or sell it to someone else who is prepared to do so.”
The Albert Hotel boasts stunning views over the Forth and the bridges. It dates back to the early 19th century, when it was opened as Mitchell’s Inn. Its name was changed to the Albert Hotel in honour of the arrival of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the town in 1842.
Mr Barratt said: “The lockdown should not be used as a cover for the destruction of our built heritage.
“If the destruction of the internal fabric of the building is used down the line to justify a change of use into flats, as I suspect may be the case, this should also be strongly opposed. The Albert has every capacity to be run as a successful pub and hotel.”
Fife Council’s head of planning Pam Ewen confirmed activity at the Albert Hotel had been reported to the council.
She added: “We are currently investigating works at this property on the basis they may be in breach of planning controls. The Health and Safety Executive have also been informed.”