AFTER six years left dangling, the Rockgelly project to turn an old church in Lochgelly into a top notch indoor climbing centre will finally get underway.

It's been hit with numerous delays but there's fresh hope it could open this time next year with Fife Council aiming to start building "in the New Year".

Thom Humphrey, of Rockgelly, said: "There are days when I think this is never going to go ahead but rather than be down in the dumps about six years of hard graft and nothing to show for it, I'm actually even more motivated to make it happen.

"Fife Council have been really good with us, and it wouldn't be happening at all if it wasn't for the work of Hazel Cross, their economic adviser, but where all the delays have come from, I've no idea.

"It just seems to be one thing after another."

Rockgelly involves the conversion of St Andrew Church into an indoor rock climbing and bouldering centre, with a new 12-metres high tower extension containing the "wow factor" climbing wall.

It sits on the former Town House development site and will also have a soft play area and cafe.

The church building has been restored and refurbished and planning permission for the tower was granted a year ago, with work scheduled to get underway in February 2019.

That didn't happen and Thom sighed: "There have been lots of delays and the number one question we get asked all the time is 'What's happening?'

"People are really hungry for it and want to see it open.

"When we started this in 2013 we naively thought we could turn it round in a year or two!

"It will be done. Fife Council have big budget pressures but they've told us the money, it's around £1.2 million so it is a lot, will have to be spent before the new financial year.

"The tenders are there. It's not cheap but from the comments and support we've had from the community, I'm absolutely 100 per cent sure it's what they want."

A planning application relating to the site was approved this month and Fife Council's David Grove, from the town centre development unit, told the Times: “The design team for the project is currently reviewing the build tenders for phase 2, which is essentially the tower where the climbing wall will be.

“We’d like to schedule these works so that they take place at the same time as the improvements to the Town House Square.

"We’re hoping work will begin in the New Year.”

Keeping all his fingers crossed, and trusting there are no more delays and work starts and finishes when it should, Thom said it could finally open in October or November next year.

That includes an eight months building period and roughly 10 weeks to fit it out.

Thom said: "The council are responsible for all the building work, as they own it, and we have to pay the costs of kitting it out.

"We estimated we'd have to raise just under £500,000 but it's just under £400,000 now as we're being more canny about how we build it. It'll still be the same facility and the same spec we've promised.

"We've worked with Sportscotland and Mountaineering Scotland to come up with the designs for what they call a Regional Level 2 hub, which will be a big enough attraction that people from all over Fife, Perth and Kinross and further, will want to go there."

Rockgelly has applied to funding partners and Thom said one particular "grilling" from the Robertson Trust, who were happy enough to later award them £60,000, helped them focus on the projects they'll offer, as well as delivering a top class sporting facility.

From "fairly vague intentions" they now have clear social and community aims with plans to help local kids through homework clubs and tackling school holiday hunger while giving them healthy exercise through climbing.

Thom is also hoping the community will rally round once the building work is complete.

He said: "We won't have much money left for the cafe furniture, reception desks, tables and chairs etc, so we're hoping to do a DIY SOS sort of mission where hopefully people will volunteer to come and give us a hand.

"Together we can build our own community-focused climbing facility!"