FIFE Council have poured cold water on claims that the use of the loch at Lochore Meadows has been "effectively privatised".

Conservative councillor Linda Holt said officers were in negotiations with St Andrews University for a boathouse to be built at the country park and the uni boat club to be given a 40-year lease – without any input from locals.

She added: "It's been a huge shock to people who care about the Meedies to discover that neither they nor elected members will get any say in whether the lease goes ahead. It's basically a done deal."

That's been flatly denied by the council who said nothing had been decided, pointing out that the university has already been using the loch for 18 months, will not have exclusive use and that "all views will be considered" if and when plans are submitted.

Cllr Holt, who represents the East Neuk and Landward ward, said the boat club only held a "very belated" consultation event at Benarty Centre after concerns were raised by Benarty Community Council.

And she said the university has "no intention to share the facility" with other rowers.

Cllr Holt added: "Giving St Andrews University a 40-year lease for the exclusive use of the loch for rowing with their own secured compound and boat house effectively privatises a key part of the Meedies.

"The university's rowing teams will have priority over other loch users, and this lease kills off other leisure development possibilities – such as for fishing – on the water."

She said last year's "furore" over the new visitor centre had "exposed the lack of any structure or genuine community involvement" and a "glaring absence of any comprehensive vision for the future of this neglected park".

Cllr Holt called for a "full and open debate" on the future of Lochore Meadows and said: "Instead of working with communities to create a Meedies action plan, Fife Council is now going behind their backs and the backs of their own members to seal a lease with a private club which will significantly curtail future development options at the park."

However, Labour councillor Linda Erskine, convener of the Cowdenbeath Area Committee, said: “It’s important to note that the university rowing club is already a member of the Lochore community sports hub. They’ve been using the loch for 18 months.

"All the clubs and the outdoor education centre work together to manage their water time and make sure everyone’s needs are met – including park visitors.

“There’s no suggestion of the university having exclusive use of the loch. They practice in a certain area early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and a mid-week afternoon, which brings more footfall to the country park.

"I’d encourage people to take a walk through the Meedies at the weekend and watch the boats; it’s a lovely sight and something I’ve heard local people saying they’ve enjoyed over the past 18 months.

“A 40 year ground lease has been proposed for a boat house but nothing has been decided yet.

"There’s an ongoing process and negotiations over the terms of any lease are on hold at the moment until we hear the findings of a public consultation exercise."

She said local councillors and community councils were aware of the proposals and the club was "very open" about the proposals at the drop-in event at Benarty Centre.

Cllr Erskine concluded: “Although I personally believe that this should be viewed as an opportunity, I am aware that there is opposition from some members of the local community and all views will be considered if this plan is formally submitted for approval.

"The area committee will want to be involved in proposals and plans as they develop.”