PLANS to demolish the former Inverkeithing Primary School have been labelled “premature” and “highly inappropriate” by a community group who want to buy it.

Owners Andrail UK Ltd say the only way forward for the redevelopment of the fire-hit site at Roods Road is to knock down the listed buildings as they failed to attract any commercial interest.

The plans were resubmitted despite ongoing work by a community-led partnership to carry out a feasibility study to see if there is any alternative future for the former school.

Inverkeithing Community Development Group (ICDG) and co-housing charity, the Vivarium Trust, say this should be completed by the end of January 2020 but preliminary results show that the building can be “saved” and “re-used” despite being badly damaged by a fire last year.

Rosie Gibson from ICDG said: “The developer is aware that a community-led feasibility study is underway. The study has been made possible with the support of around £40,000 of public money from the Scottish Land Fund, Fife Council and the Architectural Heritage Fund.

“The timing of this application to demolish is therefore considered premature and highly inappropriate, given the current study and the public money involved.

“Inverkeithing residents have already shown strong support for the community use on the site and further community consultation is about to happen. The aim is that a viable business plan will be produced for community ownership, in partnership with the Vivarium plans for co-housing for over 50s.”

After the study is completed, a final business plan will be submitted to the Scottish Land Fund in March next year as part of an application for stage two funding to purchase the site. Options have included the creation of social meeting spaces, green and bio-diverse areas, artists’ studios, men’s shed, community cafe, cinema and tourist attraction.

Vivarium say they have a growing list of interested residents in co-housing for over 50s.

Andrew Prendergast from the trust said: “The developer says they have tried to market the site but they don’t mention the current feasibility study and the previous contact with the Vivarium Trust, who wish to purchase the site in partnership with the community.”

He added: “There are already around 300 people on the waiting list for older people’s housing in Inverkeithing alone and this number is forecast to triple over the next 20 years. The co-housing model for older people will help to address this housing need, whereas Andrail’s more speculative commercial housing will not.

“Vivarium’s architects have also submitted a pathfinder project for co-housing on the old school site to the Scottish Government and a ministerial decision is awaited. The project is in line with the government’s programme which states its intention to pilot innovative housing solutions for older people including testing inter-generational and other co-living arrangements to meet housing needs and reduce loneliness.

“The co-housing model is very successful in Europe and there’s every reason it would be successful in Scotland too, with Fife and Inverkeithing leading the way.”

Previously, a plan to knock down the old school and build 28 homes was withdrawn after Historic Environment Scotland objected. Scottish ministers indicated they wouldn’t consider the application until a bat survey had been submitted.

That has now been done, leaving the way clear for a decision to be made.