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THE Dunoon Observer can exclusively reveal that Argyll and Bute Council has agreed in principle the sale of the Castle Toward estate to entrepreneurs Keith Punler and Cowal business woman Denice Purdie (above) - of Purdie’s soaps fame.


This evening (Friday) we caught up with Denice and she told of her plans for the estate.


After confirming that her bid of £1.5m had been accepted in principle she was keen to counter local rumour.


“Contrary to rumours, the mansion house will not be developed into luxury flats,” the former Dunoon resident said: “I am looking to develop a luxury hotel spa, with its main business being weddings.


“We have prepared a master plan for the estate which encompasses numerous exciting elements including leisure, hospitality, tourism, retail, manufacturing and housing which is intended to support the overall development through the creation of local housing at the outer edge of the estate, close to the community hall. The housing model we will be looking at is one that we have successfully used elsewhere, through the formation of partnerships with the community and the council. These homes will be available to rent and buy, with preference being given to local key workers in modest employment, who will be given the opportunity rent at below market value to allow them to save for a mortgage deposit.”


Denice told us that she was a frequent visitor to the estate as a child. She continued: “Who would have thought I would now be looking at buying the estate.”

We asked if she was aware of the failed community buy-out of the estate and Denice said: “Yes, I followed the progress of the bid avidly and my heart goes out to them that the community bid failed – but once it had, I considered that there was an opportunity for me to assist the community with some of their ambitions if I could put in a successful offer. That’s better than somebody from out-of-town getting it and the community losing any influence over the estate.”

We asked if local people will still be able to walk on the grounds and enjoy the Chinese Lakes and the old castle. Denice said: “Yes, of course. I want the community involved. I come from a craft background and I want to lease some of the buildings as a craft village, with studios and workshops. Community participation will be a key factor in the success of our proposals.


“We will be spending a lot of money on the mansion house to restore it to its former glory– but the work I have planned to reinstate the grounds to their original splendour will cost even more.”


We asked if she intends to meet with the South Cowal community to discuss her plans for the estate. The entrepreneur said: “Yes – absolutely. Work is taking me out of the country for two months but – as soon as I get back we will be arranging a series of public meetings to provide further information on our plans and to allow all stakeholders the opportunity to provide feedback and to get involved in the evolution of the process. I am looking forward to engaging with the community and hope that all those that put so much effort into the Save Castle Toward group will proactively participate. We feel that it is important to bring the community back together and realise just how strong this community can be when it acts together in the interests of all”


Denice currently lives in Balado, but is looking forward to returning to Argyll when the purchase of Castle Toward goes through. She said: “I am a local business woman – I am very keen to move my business base back to Argyll. We have exciting plans for numerous businesses to be based in Argyll.”


She concluded by saying: “As the preferred bidder - fingers crossed.”

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