Dismay as Argyll and Bute Council says ‘No’ to Castle Toward community buyout plans

Dismay as Argyll and Bute Council says ‘No’ to Castle Toward community buyout plans
Common Space, by Michael Gray
12.02.15


Hopes of campaigners in Dunoon, who offered £850,000 to buy out the derelict Castle Toward estate for their community, have been dashed by Argyll and Bute council after it rejected the offer.

A special meeting had been called to discuss the final proposals ahead of the deadline of Friday 13 February, which under legislation was the date by which the community had to have a bid accepted in order to exercise its right to buy the land.

The community had tabled a bid for £850,000 and said the takeover would provide 80 jobs and millions of pounds of future investment.

However, the council rejected the bid, refused any further negotiations, and decided to sell the property on the open market.

Douglas Henry, executive director or customer services, has been tasked with reviewing the behaviour of elected members in relation to the dispute.

The leader of the community buyout bid requested to speak at the meeting, but was refused permission.

This morning (12 February), CommonSpace published a series of allegations of bullying, threats and cover-ups surrounding council activities (click here to read more). There has been no answer from the council.

Local residents, many of whom have dedicated up to 18 months driving the Castle Toward proposals forward, expressed their dismay and anger at the council verdict.

One commenter simply said on Facebook: “Sad, disappointed, angry, let down ……. Where do you start?!”

Others were adamant that further action was required, with calls for intervention from higher authorities and a concerted campaign to oust the members who opposed the buyout plan.

Local MSP Mike Russell tweeted: “Extraordinary scenes at @argyllandbute this afternoon – any elected body that uses procedural trickery to defeat a community is finished.”

Russell added to CommonSpace that there were serious questions to be answered regarding the actions of council leaders and officers.

The council motion gives senior council official Douglas Henry the power to discipline councillors for their support for the community.

The motion also condemns community campaigners for “attempts to denigrate officers” of councils.

A CommonSpace source, who once won a case against the council for misconduct, described a culture of political fear across the area: “You don’t challenge, you don’t speak out, and if you do you pay dearly for it.”

Members of the South Cowal community in Dunoon are determined that this is changed.

The Castle Toward estate will now be sold on the open market.

The community challenge to Argyll and Bute Council will continue.

Picture courtesy of Save Castle Toward campaign.