Tayport’s steel making industry has been long consigned to history – but now a new vision is being presented for the former Abertay Works steel site. Michael Alexander was given a tour as demolition work concludes.
Strewn with giant blocks of rubble and filthy with puddles of mud, the site of the former Abertay Works in Tayport has been transformed in recent weeks with the demolition of iconic steel making sheds that had lain empty for more than 20 years.
It’s a far cry from the bygone era of steelmaking in the town – dating back to the 1800s – when the local industry employed up to 80 people and even had its own rail track and giant crane servicing the works.
Now as the diggers continue their clear-up of the long since abandoned site, ambitions are high that a whole new chapter of development will bring much needed new community and sporting facilities to the town – and at the same time tap in to the tourism influx that is expected when the V&A Museum of Design opens in Dundee next year.
The Tayport Community Trust is spearheading £2.2 million plans for a community campus/community hub which will include a sports hall, outdoor five a side football pitch, and much needed accommodation for community activities.
These will replace the Victorian-era facilities which have served the town well but have arguably seen better days.
At the same time, the trust – with support from Fife Council – is looking to develop facilities for up to 30 camper vans on the east side of the site.
This will join up with a proposed ‘Sea Eagle trail’ linked to Tentsmuir Forest in association with the RSPB and the Forestry Commission.
With permanent camper van sites in short supply, the trust hopes to develop a “tourist corridor” whereby visitors use Tayport as a base for day trips to Dundee and St Andrews before returning to spend time enjoying the stunning river setting and other local facilities on the south bank of the Tay.
Giving The Courier a tour of the demolition site, Tayport Community Trust chairman Mike Burns, who helped draw up the strategy, said everyone was excited at the wide benefits it could bring.
“The community have been trying to raise funds for over 20 years to try and knock down the old steel works and try to reinstate the site to community use, and I’m glad to say in the last 18 months, during my time as chairman, Tayport Community Trust have been able to talk to the Scottish Government and get the funding through the Scottish Land Fund,” he explained.
“The site was valued at £400,000 but we were able to acquire it from Fife Council for £40,000 because our plans, which have been granted planning permissions, are for community use.
“We are now at the final stage of our £1.2 million application to Big Lottery and hope to hear from them by the end of March with a view to starting work on the camper van site then.
“We’ve had an approval from Resilient Scotland for over £400,000 and we’ve talked to four or five other trusts including Sportscotland. At the moment we are working towards a package of around £2.2 million, and all going well would hope to be on site by next year.”
Tayport Community Trust exists to try and improve the environment for the residents of Tayport.
Existing projects include the Tayport Harbour Café and a horticultural site called Plant (People Learning About Nature in Tayport) which offers training to get people into work.
Mr Burns, 60, whose day job is chief executive of addiction recovery organisation CAIR Scotland Ltd in Dundee, said it was hoped that the new facilities, once up and running, would create another five jobs, and most importantly, reinvigorate the town which he describes as “one of those hidden treasures”.
It’s a view shared by Taybridghead Liberal Democrat Fife councillor Maggie Taylor who said: “To have a facility like this on our doorstep is superb and will attract many tourists, both with their tents and camper vans.
“The site is in such a fantastic situation – on the Fife Coastal Path, beside Tentsmuir Forest and beside Tayport’s lovely caravan park.
“Thanks have to be said to the many trust members, who over the years have worked extremely hard to achieve this.”
Taybridgead SNP Fife councillor Bill Connor added: “The removal of the old fabrication building is a very welcome sight and the people of Tayport are excited by the ambitious project that will be its replacement.
“The residents of Tayport have taken part in a full consultation on the redevelopment and look forward to using the facilities and welcoming tourists to the area.
“We thank the volunteers of the community trust for their work and dedication in progressing this welcome addition to the Tayport landscape.”