Song and dance over the future of small parcel of Dunfermline public land

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Plans show how the area could look

A row has erupted over plans to lease a small piece of Dunfermline common good land to the Alhambra Theatre Trust.

The trust has ambitious plans to create a cultural hub on the site and adjoining vacant building.

There was a split decision at the City of Dunfermline committee to progress with plans to dispose of the area at the corner of New Row and Park Avenue.

While the rental value has not yet been agreed, the prospective tenant has said it would it would be a minimum of £1,000 a  year. Income would be credited to the common good account.

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A rotting bench on the area of common good land

But Central Dunfermline Community Council chairman Jim Stewart claimed the decision about the site, gifted by the Carnegie Trust in 1962 on the condition it remain a public open space, had been based on “untruths and inaccuracies.”

He said the community council opposed the disposal of such areas as they “cannot be replaced”, and said as part of the consultation it worked on a number of options towards a compromise.

“None of the information supplied in terms of providing a balanced and objective view was presented in the committee report,” he claimed.

Mr Stewart added it is not for Fife Council to barter public assets away.

Local SNP MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville has backed calls for a rethink, claiming the decision was “absurd” as it takes away a longstanding and well used green space from residents.”

She said officials had “seemingly disregarded” the community council’s views and claimed Conservative and Labour councillors, who voted for the scheme, showed a staggering inability to recognise the area’s value.

Other councillors put forward a counter motion, calling for the matter to return to the area committee.

However, procedural matters now go to the assets, property and facilities committee with consent coming from the sheriff.

The casting vote went to committee convener, Labour councillor Helen Law, who explained: “Only a matter of weeks before a small piece of land at the other end of Park Avenue was requested by the occupant of the house to create a driveway.

“That went through without a whimper so I am really a bit puzzled as to why this small piece of land, which meets the same criteria, is generating such a stooshie.”

Not to do the same in this case could be viewed as double standards, she added.

Mrs Law said in the year of young people, the concept of a youth theatre with outdoor performance space fitted exactly.

“My guiding principle when I look at anything which comes in front of me is this – is it good for Dunfermline.

“This is a boarded up building and pretty much unloved and unused piece of land versus a theatre school.”