A CLIMBING tower is all but complete at the former St Andrew's Church in Lochgelly but it's not clear if it will ever be used. 

Fife Council officers told the Cowdenbeath area committee they are unsure how much money it will cost to run and how much cash it will bring in.

That's because they've decided the proposed operators, Rockgelly, are "not able to advance" with their plans to turn the empty church into a regional climbing centre due to a lack of funds. 

Officers said they're now looking at turning the building into a community hub, as Lochgelly Town Hall will cost "substantially more" than half a million pounds to fix. 

READ MORE: Call for significant funding in Cowdenbeath Public Park

Gordon Mole, head of business and employability, told councillors: "We've now reached the point, in the officers' view, that we can go no further with Rockgelly on the agreed basis."

Central Fife Times: Images of how Rockgelly was supposed to look. The indoor climbing centre will not go ahead as planned.Images of how Rockgelly was supposed to look. The indoor climbing centre will not go ahead as planned. (Image: Newsquest)

The committee was told that £2.2m had been spent on the project, the Town House Square and public realm improvements, which were all linked.  

The council bought the building on Bank Street from the Church of Scotland in 2006 for £80,000 as part of wider regeneration plans.

In 2014 the idea of turning the empty church into an indoor climbing centre with a cafe and soft play facilities, and profits being ploughed back into the community, was put forward and Rockgelly Community Interest Company was formed.  

It remained empty and prone to vandalism until early 2019 when the council completed an £831,000 spend to make the building wind and watertight. 

A further £800,000 was allocated for a climbing tower, interior work and Town House Square, while the Rockgelly team secured £360,000 for the internal refurbishment. 

But by Spring 2022, they were "struggling" to complete the final phase, as spiralling construction costs had pushed those fit-out costs up by another £140,000.  

Last August the council decided that "significant progress" had not been made and, from this point, wider uses for the building were explored.

An offer to use the climbing tower only, with the rest of the building turned over to community organisations, remains on the table despite Rockgelly reiterating that their plans would not be "viable" unless they could also have bouldering facilities inside. 

The same report explained that Lochgelly Town Hall is in poor condition and has significant issues that would cost "substantially more than £500,000" to rectify.  

It added that it still accommodates "much-needed community uses" but the building is "underutilised".

Paul Vaughan, head of communities and neighbourhoods, told the committee: "The progress made at St Andrews Church, in terms of the refurbishment, and the issues that members have been briefed on with Lochgelly Town Hall, presents an opportunity for the refurbished St Andrew's Church to become that community hub for the Lochgelly area."

As for the climbing tower, he said there would have to be a "discussion on what we actually do with it".

While supportive of the idea for a community hub, Cllr Mary Lockhart said the town hall was a common good asset and the public should be asked what they want done with it. 

She added: "It belongs to the people of Lochgelly and they feel strongly about it as it's not available for the uses it ought to be.

"It's important we have that consultation because of the controversies surrounding the future use of such an asset."

Convener Alex Campbell concluded: "The door is still open to Rockgelly to come and have a discussion with us. It's entirely up to them to see if we can have them on board and in partnership with us."