IT HAS been another busy week in South Cowal Community Development Company's plan to buy the Castle Toward estate (above).
The estate owner has agreed to place the estate on the market, allowing a community purchase bid to succeed. SCCDC has now selected a firm of architects with strong local connections to undertake surveys and planning work to understand the costs of bringing Castle Toward back into economic use.
Under the Land Reform Act (Scotland) nobody but SCCDC can bid to buy the estate for the next six months after owners Argyll and Bute Council gave official notice last Friday (February 7) that it will 'transfer' the land.
Then, on Monday, the SCCDC board interviewed four of the UK's top architect firms in Dunoon's Argyll Hotel after a long-leet of eight firms was whittled down.
After a rigorous selection process, John McAslan and Partners was chosen to work on the initial architecture aspect of the project, with the firm's fees being 90 per cent covered by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
SCCDC chairman Alan Stewart remarked on how difficult a choice his board had to make. He said: "There was barely a paper-width between each architect's professional presentation, how can you choose between the best of the best?"
Mr Stewart continued: "I feel we have made the best choice based on a point-scoring system - and who we thought could best achieve what we needed in the first stages of regeneration of the Castle Toward estate.
"We were bowled over by the firms' pitches and would like to extend our sincere thanks to all the top-class architect practices that attended.
"It made me realise how prestigious the Castle Toward estate project is."
John McAslan and Partners will now work with the SCCDC in the coming months to gather information needed to proceed with the purchase of the estate. There will also be a series of public events and consultations in South Cowal in the coming months.
Ailsa Raeburn, Scottish Land Fund Advisor with HIE, said: "We have been really impressed with the work the group has done so far in getting the project to this stage and are keen to provide support and advice to them in deciding the best future for the estate and the local community."
John McAslan CBE is a former pupil of Dunoon Grammar School.
In 2009 the John McAslan Family Trust acquired Dunoon's Burgh Hall and is currently engaged in bringing the building back to life.
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