Council rejects Castle Toward community bid

Castle Toward community buy-out campaigners pictured outside Argyll and Bute Council's Lochgilphead HQ on Thursday, February 12, 2015.
Castle Toward community buy-out campaigners pictured outside Argyll and Bute Council's Lochgilphead HQ on Thursday, February 12, 2015.

A community bid to purchase the Castle Toward estate, opposite Rothesay Bay, under ‘right to buy’ legislation has been rejected by Argyll and Bute Council.

A special meeting of the authority on Thursday afternoon ended sooner than expected when, on the advice of senior officers, Provost Len Scoullar ruled that a proposal that the council sell the estate to the South Cowal Community Development Company (SCCDC) for £850,000 was incompetent.

The ruling came after the Save Castle Toward Support Group handed over a petition containing more than 10,500 signatures in support of a community buy-out.

Douglas Hendry, the council’s executive director of community services, and Donald Kelly, the authority’s legal services manager, advised that the proposal, by Dunoon councillor Michael Breslin, was not competent because it did not meet the requirements laid down in a 2010 set of regulations regarding the disposal of land by local authorities.

An April 2014 vaulation of the site, prepared for the Scottish Government by its District Valuer, estimated that the estate was worth £1.75 million, but a January 2015 valuation by estate agents Savills for SCCDC concluded that it was worth £850,000.

A motion by Conservative councillor Gary Mulvaney proposing, among much else, that the council withdraw the delegation to its officers in regard to any further negotiations with SCCDC, went through ‘on the nod’ after Cllr Breslin’s amendment was ruled to be incompetent.

Again on the advice of officers, Provost Scoullar had previously decided that SCCDC chair Alan Stewart should not be permitted to speak in support of the company’s proposal for two reasons: first, because the matter had already been considered at two previous council meetings, and second, that Mr Stewart’s request to speak had not been received within three working days of Thursday’s meeting.

Afterwards, Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said: “Using procedural devices to do down a local community is disgraceful and is already the subject of a huge amount of adverse comment across Argyll and more widely.”