THERE'S still no deal in place to buy the "ransom strip" that Fife Council need for a £20 million-plus bypass and bridge over the railway in Dunfermline.

A small area of land is needed behind Halbeath Retail Park for the start of the Northern Link Road (NLR) which will serve the new housing estates and take traffic away from the city centre.

That's been the case for years but the council have not been able to reach an agreement with Royal London, who own the retail park and the stretch of Kingseat Road up to the level crossing, to buy it.

A deal looked on the cards in November 2022 but didn't proceed and then last August the local authority told the Press they were "currently working to finalise the terms of the purchase of land".

Dunfermline Press: The new bridge over the Fife Circle will see the level crossing removed at Halbeath. The new bridge over the Fife Circle will see the level crossing removed at Halbeath. (Image: Newsquest)

Officers said they expected to conclude a deal before the planning application for the bridge over the Fife Circle was submitted in the last quarter of 2023, but that hasn't happened.

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This week head of planning Pam Ewen said: "The council is progressing well with the land required to deliver this project.

"The land is needed so that a bridge over the Fife rail line can be built, which will provide road access to the wider Dunfermline new development planned as part of the Fife local development plan.

"The bridge is being funded by developers with Taylor Wimpey building the road from the bridge, though their site, to Kingseat Road.

"The council is now working towards the submission of a planning application later this year.

"Work is due to start mid-2025 subject to planning permission and costs will be updated at the point the project tender returns."

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Thousands of houses are being built in and around Wellwood and another 1,400 will be built between Halbeath and Kingseat, with the NLR running through those sites and onto Milesmark. 

The delay in striking a deal may not be a surprise as relations between the council and Royal London did become strained over plans for a nine-unit extension to the retail park, which was approved by councillors in February 2017.

It was to include a Lidl supermarket and an M&S Foodhall - there were objections to the plans and councillors denied the ransom strip had played a part in the decision - but it has never progressed.

Part of the planning permission was a £700,000 contribution for transport improvements in the area but Royal London didn't want to pay this.

However they have something the council wants, the so-called 'ransom strip' of land needed for the NLR.

In 2017, they offered to “guarantee access to the land” for the road if the council waived the sum.

Royal London then changed their mind and said they would make the financial contribution, but withdrew the offer of access to the land.

A council report at the time described this as "disappointing" and said access "would have helped to realise the delivery of the northern distributor road sooner which could help alleviate congestion on the roads throughout Dunfermline earlier".

An appeal against having to pay the money was later rejected.