St Monans Community Regeneration  Initiative  

update by Gordon Bell, August 2018

Our original initiative came from a growing concern around the decline of commercial activities within St Monans, loss of local jobs, and the effect on the community. There had been a decline in the fishing activities, the closure of our boat building business and the closure of the boat maintenance slip. One of our shops and the café had closed. While the village projects a reasonably affluent impression, it had many of the social challenges of larger communities.  Our project was to focus on jobs that would be available to the unskilled, semi-skilled and younger workers, create new small businesses and secure the prosperity of the village for the future.

This new St Monans Initiative has the backing of the Local Councillors, The Community Council,  The St Monans Harbour Users Association and generally supported by the Fife Council.

We seek to develop new sustainable business opportunities and create an environment where they can cooperate, thrive and give employment to local people. We also wish to create an environment and a destination that will attract day and short-term visitors, and of course be a positive community and place residents enjoy and value.

The tourist market is increasingly important, and, like most of Scotland, is the main wealth generator, however it is very seasonal, so our initiative focus will be to establish small manufacturing and service based businesses that operate all year round. Many businesses will be home based.

St Monans was a fishing and boatbuilding community and its heart is still in those roots. In and around the village many of the businesses still have a link to seafood, fish and farming.  With this in mind, we have chosen to build on this theme of quality food. We have two General Stores, Five Wholesale/Retail fish merchants, a Fine Dining Restaurant, a Farm Shop, East Pier Smokehouse and the Diving Gannet Café which are valued. We are also hopeful that the new gallery in the old post office will open soon.  East Pier Smokehouse and our Café have opened since the start of the initiative. One blow was the loss of our Hotel and Bar, but we remain hopeful that this might be regenerated.

We seek to develop St Monans as a food destination, both for the public and for retailers/distributors seeking high quality Scottish produce. Fish vans leave St Monans on a daily basis, retailing fresh fish to most of central Scotland.  We look to develop income from tourism – from those on medium or short breaks and day visitors. We have specifically target the visual arts market, in particular photography and painting. We have an exciting project in the photography sector within the village that could be of national importance and a great asset to the village.  We seek to expand and develop through cooperation and by adding value. We look to raise awareness of all businesses and services in the community.

There are Five Main Elements.

  1. Manufacturing and Processing

Our manufacturing/processing base will supply sustainable and all year round employment. We are lucky in that we have some industrial units at the top of the village that are all full and there is a demand for similar small start-up units. We have cooperated with Anstruther estates who have developed Bowhouse at the top of the village, and they hope to develop the existing buildings into small units for food manufacturers and processors, and also to develop a communal vegetable garden.   All of this is linked in to their existing farming and commercial operations. Much of these plans have come to pass and Bowhouse is a popular destination once a month. Local businesses have benefited, and one relocated successfully in to the development. We hope to link this with plans for further development of existing units. There has also been a new development completed, giving attractive small business units on what was a derelict area, and these are now 50% let.

  1. Tourism

A key initiative for new development would be in leisure and tourism based around the harbour. We know that unless the harbour develops some additional income there is little reason for its maintenance. St Monans is on the Fife coastal path, and therefore has a large number of walkers passing through, however, there was at the start of our initiative little reason to stop. Other day visitors arriving by car find little or no parking and tend to turn round where they can and leave. Our final groups are visitors to the letting houses. This group is increasing as there are more letting houses. This is a mixed blessing as it would not be desirable for the community to have a high percentage of non-resident owners, however visitors letting houses bring considerable income to the community.   Our proposals for tourism are based around the harbour, our aim is a short to medium term project that will improve the facilities for visitors and residents and develop income for the harbour and surrounding businesses.

We will promote the village as a beautiful destination, a source of great food and a centre for the visual arts, in particular painting and photography.

  1. Our Harbour

To help generate income from the harbour there has been a proposal to increase the capacity for mooring, this is generally supported. This will bring rental income in for the council and increase visitors to the village. However, this would require the services around the harbour to be substantially upgraded.  This was the item that spurred the foundation of The St Monans Harbour Users Association.

We think it worthwhile to take a wider view of our harbour and community use. Most of enjoy the harbour in its present form and are keen to maintain its character and ambiance, however, the harbour has not stood still in the past and will continue to evolve. It is important the harbour produces some commercial income for it to be maintained – if there is no income there will be no maintenance and the harbour will silt up and fall in to disrepair. The harbour is at the heart of the community and is enjoyed by many. It is our equivalent of a village green. The Harbour users and Towns Team were successful, with the cooperation of the council, in being allocated resource to have the harbour dredged. This has made a huge difference in reducing the harbour odours, and increasing times the boats can gain access, and is particularly beneficial to the creel boats, by giving them more time at sea in the key months. Since the start of the initiative, we have had a great deal of community input and assistance in developing plans for the harbour that will support its development {this was three years’ work}.  The key areas of the harbour improvement are

  1. Securing our village beach, making it more accessible and safer, and protecting it from erosion.
  1. Added and better facilities for the fishermen, as fishing continues to be challenging, and we wish to support them.
  1. The old winding shed to be adapted to address the total lack of services around the harbour for boat owners, harbour users and community groups, including the school.
  1. Adapt the slip way to improve access to the fishing area, create an events area by the harbour, a turning point and additional parking for the now busy summer months, increase boat storage and income for the council in winter months.
  2. East slip – tidy up surrounding walls and area, control access to slipway and provide additional income for the harbour.

Creel Fishing

We wish to encourage and support the few commercial fishermen still operating (Shellfish), however, recognise this will be difficult.  We are looking in to developing a management strategy for creel fishing that will identify and preserve areas of the coast and seabed for conservation and breeding of new stock. We are also looking in to hatcheries for increasing commercial lobster stocks. Fresh produce from the sea and land are at the heart of our new initiative.

  1. Broadband and Communications

Since we started, broadband connections have been upgraded to commercial speeds and we have seen improvement in mobile signals, though perhaps not around the harbour. We will establish a St Monans intranet and communications location, connecting to an Internet information site. We are hoping to develop a system on communicating with the public at entry point on the walk and cycle ways, giving information on services and activities.

To Summarise

We have developed a plan that can be carried out in steps, where each in their own way will bring benefits to the local commercial businesses and develop the social facilities to the community. Our aim is to get agreement between the community and authorities on a commercial strategy for the village and a program of infrastructure works required to support this.  It is understood that not all funds can come from the public sector.

Issues to be addressed.

  • Fundraising for the harbour project.
  • Services to existing harbour users and visitor are poor. For the boats, there are no toilets or chemical toilet disposal point, no shower or washing facility for visiting boats. Electricity and water are sporadic.
  • Parking is a problem, particularly at the West End of the harbour, which is exacerbated by patrons of the Craig Miller Restaurant and the East Pier (Good!) There is also an issue with lack of turning space. This will come from the landscaping of the old west slipway, now derelict. Parking and access in station road is increasingly a problem and discussions have begun to look at an overall traffic management program.
  • Additional space will be required for boat storage and maintenance.  It would be ideal if we could accommodate all boats laid up for the winter without using the mid pier.
  • Upgrade of the old boat shed base to accommodate small/day boat launch and trailer parking in the summer and small boat storage in the winter.
  • Restoration of the west end green and small beach is required, which have been steadily eroded.
  • Introduction of additional small businesses and commercial units.
  • Development of the Community Garden and Allotments.
  • Fisheries conservation strategies.
  • Lobster Nursery.
  • We are keen to ensure that elements wherever possible have full access for people with disabilities.
  • Encouragement of social initiatives for engagement of all members of the community.
  • Community project build and sail Rowing Skiff. A group has been formed for this project and the build is underway. The rowing group is active and currently rowing at Elie

It is very obvious that there will be little or no capital investment from Fife council, so it will be up to communities to take the initiative.  Recognising the lack of monies, the council have, however offered to support the project in any practical way they can.

The Towns Team are currently involved in The Development of a Community Action Plan asking the entire community for their input and vision for the future of St Monans.

Since the early day some five years ago the initiative has grown and made significant contributions to progress. The working group, the Towns Team, has increased, to encompass many initiatives and now has 50 members. If you have a project, you are passionate about and would like to take forward for the community why not come along. The Towns Team are represented on the Community Council, and they meet the first Monday of every month, currently in the Masons Hall Braehead.  Meetings are open to all, and you will be made very welcome.


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