A CINEMA could return to the centre of Dunfermline as part of ambitious plans to breathe new life into old and empty buildings.

Despite the long list of vacant properties in the heart of the town, local champions believe there’s room for optimism.

As well as proposals for the former Robins cinema on East Port, work to turn the ‘eyesore’ Pilmuir Works into 157 homes is to begin in the Autumn, a cafe is planned for the empty McDonald’s building on High Street, there are plans to re-open Abbot House and the former Velocity nightclub is being turned into a world-buffet style restaurant.

There’s also “interest” from prospective buyers in the empty post office on Queen Anne Street, the Prudential Assurance building at East Port is being converted to 11 flats and an office, there are plans for 27 flats at the ex-council offices at Walmer Drive, while the Yes-U-Are Partnership continue to develop the St Andrew Erskine Church on Pilmuir Street.

Architect Sam Foster, part of Design Dunfermline, said: “We hope that we will evolve into the Dunfermline Preservation Trust, which will aim to take on the refurbishment of empty buildings one at a time.

“There are great examples of this across Scotland and we will either run the buildings ourselves or sell them on to a third party. It’s also much easier to access grants from the government this way.

"One example being considered at the former cinema is establishing hot desk space for start-ups and there is quite a demand for a community cinema too, although there’s not an exact picture of what it would look like yet.”

Passionate locals are proceeding with a feasibility study that could turn the old cinema into a creative space, similar to the successful Fife Station Creative.

The people behind the Carnegie Drive arts centre showed just how imagination and hard work could pay off, taking the vacant fire station and changing its use to become a vibrant venue with a gallery, studios and cafe / restaurant. Dunfermline Delivers, Fife Council and Dunfermline Heritage Partnership are trying to engage locals and businesses to help some of our beautiful buildings get back to their former glory days.

Work started on re-imagining the town centre for the 21st century from the findings of the four-day Design Dunfermline event earlier this year. Mr Foster is also part of the Friends of Dunfermline group who keep a watch on the town’s empty buildings – and there’s quite a list.

Apart from those mentioned above, work on the crumbling old Masonic Lodge on New Row, designed by local architect John Houston in 1904, has slowed and no-one is sure of its current ownership.

Mr Foster said it was often “incredibly hard” to find out who owns what. Another deteriorating property is the former Fife Council social work offices at Comely Park.

Empty for the best part of 20 years – the council only ever leased the premises – it’s not clear what will happen, although planning permission to convert the building into two houses was granted early in 2016.

St Margaret’s House, at the back of the new museum on St Margaret Street, has been vacant for around a year, but it is owned by Fife Council and was most recently used by Fife Cultural Trust while the Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries was being built.

Gillian Taylor, community manager for Dunfermline said: “The future of St Margaret’s House was discussed as part of the wider heritage building charrette recently. This included an idea to develop it into back packing accommodation.

“Common Good funding is now being used to survey the building, develop a concept proposal for the accommodation, outline conversion costs and produce a business model.

"This is an exciting idea and I’m sure I speak for all of the members of the Dunfermline Heritage Partnership in saying that we look forward to watching the proposal develop.”

Post Office Ltd confirmed to the Press they were in the process of selling the building in Queen Anne Street, but couldn’t provide details for “commercial reasons”.

The former registrars on Abbot Street was recently sold at auction but Mr Foster said that may not be a positive move (see story on opposite page). He said the building where Blossoms restaurant used to trade on Chalmers Street had also been sold to unknown investors with little or no progress made.

It’s not known what the plans are for the former Johnsons on Pilmuir Street, the nightclub closed last November after 37 years, although Mr Foster said he thought it would make a fantastic boutique hotel.

And Carnegie Clinic, marketed as a 10-bedroom house in 2016 when the asking price was £275,000, changed hands last year although no planning applications have been submitted since then.

Mr Foster added: “It’s definitely not all doom and gloom and we’ve seen lots of new businesses popping up around the High Street. I think Dunfermline is one of the best large towns in the country. Its history and people have a lot to offer and many companies can see that.”

A spokesperson from Dunfermline Delivers said: “Investors are showing confidence in Dunfermline with four buildings being sold as speculative investments.

"Also, vacancy rates tend to reduce when footfall increases, and Dunfermline has seen a number of changes that are helping increase footfall, including the opening of the award-winning library and the increasing number of cruise ships.”