Visitor centre plan rejected over fear of spoiling Old Course views

Plans for a £1.6 million visitor centre on St Andrews’ West Sands have been rejected over fears it would upset golfers playing on the adjacent Old Course.

Fife Coast and Countryside Trust hoped the centre, which was designed to look like overlapping waves or dunes, would also house a cafe and toilets on the West Sands in St Andrews. A new lifeguard station, recreational area and boardwalk were also to be created.

The Trust said that councillors had rejected the opportunity to replace “third-world facilities” for the public in favour of the “golfing elite”.

Fife Council’s decision to deny planning consent for the trust’s ambitious development means the loss of cash from several sources including £1.3 million from a Coastal Communities Fund in the last year such funds were available.

Chief executive of Fife and Coast Countryside Trust, Amanda McFarlane, and Tom Morton, the architect behind the rejected design, criticised the decision.

Mr Morton, of Arc Architects, said the debate focused on how the development might disturb the view of golfers even though it would have been hidden behind a five-metre dune.

He said: “There was no discussion of the benefits of the project in improving management of the beach and public safety, the educational facilities for schoolchildren, the support it would have given to local volunteer groups and businesses, and the new jobs created by a £1.6m improvement in public facilities for visitors to the beach.

“This decision means that St Andrews is destined for the foreseeable future to have extensive luxury facilities for the golfing elite looking out over decrepit, third-world facilities for the general public.”

Ms McFarlane said she was “gutted” by the outcome. She added: “We now have to go back to our funders and tell them we don’t want their £1.6m.”

The 32ft double bowl-shaped centre was designed to look like overlapping waves or dunes.

The design and size of the proposed visitor centre was deemed unacceptable partly because of the impact on views for golfers on the adjacent Old Course – the oldest golf course in the world.

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