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Cycle Loop plans punctured by rising costs

Residents plead with Fife Council to halt Scotland’s first closed loop cycling circuit at Glencraig as it comes under fire over spiralling costs

The cost of the facility has mushroomed by 143.5% from an initial price tag of £1 million in 2013. The budget estimate jumped to £1,603,043.24 in September 2015, to a current estimate of £2,435,026.

Neighbouring residents and community campaigners have criticised the project for its lack of local consultation and poor project management, which, they claim, has neglected local voices and local needs in favour of demands from national cycling orgnisations.

One of the flagship projects promoted by Fife Council’s last administration, the project was kick-started by Fife Council in February 2013 and developed in partnership with Sportscotland, Scottish Cycling and British Cycling.

According to Fife Council, costs have escalated partly because of requirements from cycling organisations. A Fife Council spokesperson wrote to a concerned resident:

“As there was no clear guidance from the cycling authorities on the level of lighting required a basic lighting layout was prepared and costed at £100K. British cycling subsequently asked for a lighting design that would provide 30 lux around the circuit and the cost increased to £220K.”

Fife Council also claim that the building costs increased from £195,000 to £500,000 after discussions between the “operator and the cycling authorities” caused the clubhouse design to be revised. Further increases were due to redesigns of the circuit, and the addition of a Toucan crossing, as well as associated on-costs (surveys, site investigations etc) and land costs.

SEPA and Fife Council’s Structural Services department made initial objections to the planning application on the grounds that the site was at risk of flooding, but these were put aside when the applicant agreed to accept the risk and resolve issues on flooding, drainage and water quality prior to construction.

According to the Lochgelly-based community news website Loch of Shining Waters, the increases in budget estimates were well above the standard range of budget variance and may be the consequence of poor planning:

“The project must be defined properly and all expectations must be identified before the project can begin. For that reason, you must not skimp on planning stage of a project.”

Community campaigner and Shining Waters’ co-founder, James Glen said:

“Not only did the Council apparently fail to engage properly and in good time with key stake-holders, they also skimped on community engagement. Consultation events were poorly advertised and attendance very sparse. Local support for the project has been non-existent. The planning application only attracted objections.”

Glencraig residents Helen McConville and Philip McKeown have accused the cycling fraternity of “arrogance … beyond acceptance”. In a letter to local councillors, they say

“Fife Council are acceding to the demands (or preferences) of cycling enthusiasts at the expense of public opinion – both the cycling fraternity and Fife Council having total disregard of neighbours’ disturbance/lack of privacy by light pollution, clubhouse situation, etc”.

Local objectors to the cycle loop have also been critical of its business case and the alleged socio-economic benefits for the neighbouring communities. James Glen says:

“The business case has never been critically evaluated because business cases are not deemed relevant in determining planning applications.

“It’s crucial because Fife Council intends the facility to be self-supporting. If the business case doesn’t stack up, it may well end up with a white elephant it has to bail out. It may also have to charge high entrance prices, putting it out of the reach of local people who come from some of Fife’s most deprived communities.

“Residents in Lochgelly and Benarty remain unconvinced about the economic benefits of the development for their towns. They are also angry that Fife Council is happily covering out-of-control costs of millions when it claimed to have no money to build a fit-for-purpose visitor centre next door at the Meedies, a proven attraction for over a million visitors a year.

“This looks like another bloated trophy project which won’t deliver on time or within budget and which local communities will get precious little out of.

“After the Meedies debacle, here is an opportunity for the new administration at Fife Council to work with residents and not against them as the previous administration did.”

According to former councillor Mark Hood, work was due to begin on the cycle-track shortly after it received planning consent two months ago, but this has been delayed due to problems in discharging planning conditions, with Fife Coucnil unable to confirm a new start date for construction.

(ENDS)

Notes

1. Planning application:
http://planning.fife.gov.uk/online/simpleSearchResults.do?action=firstPage

2. Quoted article and background at Loch of Shining Waters:

https://lochgelly.org.uk/2017/05/closed-loop-cycle-track-faces-further-delays-and-spiralling-costs/

https://lochgelly.org.uk/2016/11/will-fife-councillors-nod-through-its-1-8-million-cycle-track-despite-flood-risk-objections-and-unproven-economic-case/

https://lochgelly.org.uk/2016/08/cycle-track-faces-strong-opposition/

3. Letter from Helen McConville and Philip McKeown available on request

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