Controversy over West Sands visitor centre

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Plans for a proposed visitor centre at West Sands have come under in-creased scrutiny following opposition from groups within Fife Council as well as from the general public.

The proposals, first released in late July by the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, aim to improve the basic facilities that exist at the seafront. These currently include toilets, a cafe and a beach patrol hut. The plans would replace these conveniences with a 26ft, stainless-steel finished building that would bring showers, a shop, toilet, cafes and an exhibition centre together under one roof.

Many hope that this project, which is estimated to cost £1.5 million, will reinvigorate the tourist experience at West Sands. The Trust is bidding for a grant from the Coastal Communities Fund to enable the project to go ahead.

However, concerns have been voiced over the size and appearance of the structure, with some believing that it may detract from the natural beauty of the coastline.

The St Andrews Preservation Trust supports the idea in principle but has called for a single-story building covering a larger area. The Trust was forced to scrap plans for five vertical-axis wind turbines to fulfil the building’s energy demands after local groups objected. The tur- bines, based on those at London’s Olympic Park, would have stretched to a height of 15 metres each.

The Links Trust called the turbine plans “visually intrusive” and the building “overbearing”, while the Royal and Ancient Golf Club said the scale of the plans was “entirely inappropriate in this setting”.

Plans for a biomass boiler are set to go ahead, however, to help the building remain green.

Some groups are more supportive. Scottish Natural Heritage told the St Andrews Citizen: “The West Sands area hosts a wealth of nature, and a custom built, sustainable facility that inspires and educates visitors and encourages appropriate access to the site would be very helpful.”

“An innovative design seems ap- propriate for an iconic setting such as the West Sands.”

The Trust continues to welcome comments from members of the public. A finalised version of the plans will be set out in October.

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