A GROUP of local investors want to "rescue" an historic North Queensferry pub and stop it being turned into four flats.

They hope to buy the Albert Hotel on Main Street, restore and re-open it with early suggestions that it'll focus on craft beers, fine wines and pizza.

In the process, they aim to prove the current owner wrong – Kenny Waugh's agents said the business was "unviable" – and prevent Fife Council granting his change of use application.

North Queensferry Community Trust is working with "real investors with real money", one of whom is Dan MacDonald, who founded MacDonald Estates in 1997 and saw it grow into one of the most successful Scottish property companies, to help facilitate the purchase of the category C-listed hotel, which dates from 1824.

Together, they're working on a business plan "demonstrating the viability of the project to return the Albert to profitable operation".

They want it completed soon so they can submit it to the council to support the trust's objection to the change of use application.

Trust chairman Iain G Mitchell QC explained: “In order to be granted planning permission for change of use, the applicant requires to demonstrate that the building has no viable use as an hotel.

"Given the existence of a party willing to purchase the Albert and operate it as a valuable local facility within its existing use class, it is self-evident that the applicant will be unable to do so.”

The trust also stated that it hoped that the applicant would engage with the group in agreeing an "amicable" sale of the property.

Last week, the Press reported that Mr Waugh's Edinburgh-based company, Festival Inns SAAS, had asked the council for permission to change the use of the hotel to allow it to be converted into four apartments.

It's been closed for more than three years and a planning statement on his behalf said: "The hotel business has become unviable and wood rot caused by damp has resulted in the need to remove the bar and some of the existing floor and beams on the ground floor on safety grounds."

It added that the refurbishment and conversion into new homes, each with a balcony looking out onto the Forth Bridge, would "safeguard" the building for future generations.

Local councillor David Barratt had predicted "overwhelming opposition" to the loss of the hotel and pub and, at their meeting on Thursday, North Queensferry Community Council agreed unanimously to oppose Mr Waugh's planning application.

At the same meeting the trust's Alastair Ritchie, who convenes the sub-committee looking into a possible purchase, said: "There are many possibilities, I see it as having meeting rooms and other facilities for the village too.

"My preference would be for an establishment selling craft beer, pizza and Italian wine, I think that would complement the Wee Restaurant and Rankin's Cafe too.

"I can't speak for the Ferrybridge, there seems to be a lot of gloom and despondency about it ever re-opening."

He said the plans were "in their infancy" but, ideally, phase one would be the re-opening of the pub, phase two would be adding a food offering and phase three would be re-opening the hotel rooms or creating larger suites.

Mr MacDonald said a restaurant and bar looking out onto the Forth Bridge, with the opportunity to learn about the history of the world heritage site, should prove a real draw.

He said: "The critical thing is we don't allow it to become residential as that'd be it finished."

Mr Mitchell said: "This is not being done on the back of an envelope. We're at a relatively early stage but we've been talking about it for a while and exploring the feasibility but the presentation of the planning application has put this into overdrive.

"Proper advice is being taken but the business plan is not yet finalised."