Contract signed to begin Silverburn Flax Mill regeneration

flax mill

After nearly 11 years of planning and fundraising, Fife Employment Access Trust (FEAT) are pleased to announce that a start date has been confirmed to begin the transformative works to Silverburn Park’s B-listed former flax mill.

FEAT are a mental health employability charity and took over responsibility for managing Silverburn Park in recent years, signing a long-term lease from Fife Council in 2017 and since establishing successful enterprising activities including the Cottage Window Café and award-winning Campsite.

The organisation also host a variety of events each year, with the recent music festival attracting over 500 revellers and over 20 artists.

FEAT took on the challenge of rejuvenating the park as a means to provide new opportunities to their client group to gain skills and benefit from being in nature to support mental health and wellbeing improvements and ultimately as an income generator to reduce their reliance on grant funding and donations for their core work.

However, years of planning and feasibility studies identified renovating the flax mill and utilising it as a new visitor attraction for the area - including a café/restaurant, backpackers hostel, artist studios, a retail shop and flexible space as well as dedicated community-use space - was the best plan to generate income, as well as opportunities for training and employment and provide a wider economic boost to the area.

Thanks to funding from a range of sources, FEAT were able to go to tender earlier this year to secure a contractor to take on the complex task of restoration. However, in the period between securing the target level of funding and the actual tenders being compiled, the cost of living crisis and effects of the war in the Ukraine added nearly £2m on to the estimated total and the prospect of work getting under way was at threat.

Duncan Mitchell, CEO of FEAT, explained: “Having raised millions of pounds and hitting our target, it was really gut-wrenching to discover we were still around £2m short when the tenders came in. We only had 90 days from tender returns to secure the most effective contract and therefore limited time to raise the additional funds needed.

"However, we have been blown away by the support of the main funders for the project, who have all uplifted their grant awards to collectively close that gap and ensure that works can go ahead, with a start date of August 2023."

Those funders, National Lottery Heritage Fund, Scottish Government, Fife Council, and Historic Environment Scotland, came up with grant increases at very short notice and this demonstrates their support and desire to see the flax mill transformed.

Caroline Clark, Director of National Lottery Heritage Fund Scotland. said: "We are thrilled to see this project progressing to the next phase of delivery, thanks to the support of National Lottery players.

"The restoration of the flax mill will not only preserve this significant building but also bring valuable skills development and economic opportunities to the local communities of Leven.

"It is a testament to the power of heritage and its ability to transform lives. We look forward to seeing its positive impact on the area."

Alongside the actual construction works, there is an ongoing programme of heritage activities to engage park visitors in the rich industrial history of the mill, the wider park and also the social history which is a fascinating story: the park and buildings having been gifted to the People of Levenmouth in 1973 by the Russell Family who owned the estate previously and indeed operated the flax mill during the 1850s.

Duncan continued: “When we took this challenge on, we didn’t really appreciate the enormity of it but supported by a wonderful team including Fife Historic Buildings Trust, Sinclair Watt Architects and various services of Fife Council, we’ve made it to this stage – which trust me, felt unlikely to happen on many occasions over the years.”

Clark Contracts have secured the contract to renovate the Mill, with works set to complete in March 2026.

Michael Scanlan, Director at Clark Contracts, added: “It has been a fantastic effort by everyone involved at FEAT in getting this major restoration project to this stage.

"We are looking forward to working collaboratively with them and the wider stakeholders over the next couple of years to create a world-class visitor centre and community space.”

Christine May, Chair of Fife Historic Buildings Trust, said: “We are so excited that work will now begin on site at the flax mill.

"It’s a privilege to be part of the team working with FEAT in their vision to conserve and develop this unique B-listed building.

"The support of all the funders and the work of the dedicated design team has been invaluable.

"We look forward to seeing the flax mill open to the public for local people and visitors to enjoy at the heart of Silverburn Park.”

Duncan added: "Having secured a total of funds in the region of £10m for this project, it has been a fundraising campaign like no other we’ve seen from a local charity and I am so proud to have played a part.

"I also recognise that despite reaching this total, more money may yet be needed as we know from other similar projects that historic buildings can have many secrets and there will, I’m sure, be unforeseen, and currently uncosted, works that will be required over the coming years, so a gentle reminder to everyone that our crowdfunding campaign is still open and every penny we can raise will help to cover all eventualities ahead.”

Finally, Duncan remembered the enormous impact that former trustee Brian Robertson had on getting FEAT to this stage.

“Brian volunteered with us for around seven years and put in hours of work supporting with the development of plans for the flax mill," he concluded.

"Without his input, we’d still be in the planning stage and we can never forget this – the mill’s restoration in no small part is due to his efforts.

“Brian passed away in February 2023 before the confirmation of the contract with Clarks and it is so sad to think he won’t see the final result of his countless hours of volunteering being realised. Everyone at FEAT has that extra determination though to make sure the building does open in 2026 and be a lasting legacy and memorial to him.”

Further information about the park, the flax mill project and FEAT’s core mental health activities are available at including a virtual tour of the mill, narrated by Brian Robertson.

FEAT appreciate the support of a wide number of funders and individual donations that have supported this development, notably:

National Lottery Heritage Fund

Scottish Government – Regeneration Capital Grant Fund

Fife Council

Historic Environment Scotland

Levenmouth Reconnected Programme

UK Government Community Ownership Fund

The Robertson Trust

The Wolfson Foundation

The Swire Charitable Trust

The Hugh Fraser Foundation

The Community, thanks to crowdfunding and donations