CASTLE Toward has been placed on the open market after Argyll and Bute Council’s ‘preferred bidder’ – Seasons Holidays – dramatically pulled out of purchasing the building, the Dunoon Observer can exclusively reveal.
The news was released by the council just after 5pm yesterday (Friday).
Scottish Government local authority watchdog Audit Scotland recently confirmed to the Standard it was investigating the sale of Castle Toward.
The Cowal castle was first offered for sale in 2003 but the only bid – from outdoor education company Actual Reality was not acknowledged by the council, according to Actual Reality director Dr Christopher Mason.
Bids were invited for the property again in 2010 and four companies submitted offers, including Seasons Holidays, Actual Reality and a local community company. Seasons was controversially named as preferred bidder over the local companies
At a 2011 meeting with South Cowal Community Council a representative from Seasons Holidays told community representatives it had been in discussions with Argyll and Bute Council for six years.
Now, the time-share company has dramatically pulled out of negotiations with the council, leaving the building – which is due to be vacated by Actual Reality within weeks – to an uncertain future.
The Standard recently revealed the potentially high costs of security for the historic building and substantial grounds, over £30,000 for security equipment and annual costs of over £100,000 to be met by Argyll and Bute council tax-payers.
Councillors were told that Seasons was pulling out of negotiations at Thursday’s meeting of the full council. Councillors agreed unanimously the property should be offered for sale once again.
Council leader Roddy McCuish said: “Castle Toward is a very attractive property with huge potential both for any prospective buyer and for the local economy. The council has been working hard on progressing the sale since October 2010 and to receive this news is disappointing.”
Actual Reality director Dr Christopher Mason told the Standard: “If Castle Toward is such a valuable property with such huge potential, why has Seasons Holidays passed up such an excellent opportunity?”
Dr Mason continued: “I think the council owes an explanation at Actual Reality.”
He then made an astonishing revelation. He said: “Scottish Development International (SDI) was involved in discussions with Seasons Holidays prior to the sale. We know Argyll and Bute were talking to Seasons some five years before the sale.
“I was sent a letter by accident showing that Argyll and Bute produced a development plan for Castle Toward in conjunction with SDI and Seasons Holidays. This was kept secret. The development plan went some way to ascertaining a value for the property.
“So what has happened to that value now?”
SDI helps Scottish companies to seek investment from outwith Scotland.
We asked Dr Mason if Actual Reality would make another offer for Castle Toward and he replied: “We are in the middle of a qurter-million-pound refurbishment of Ardentinny. We will be operating Ardentinny as the new Castle Toward.
“Although I would never say never, would we spend time and money on another of Argyll and Bute Council’s ‘open market’ deals? I don’t think so.”
See Friday’s Standard for reaction and further Castle Toward news.
|< Prev||Next >|