Deal or no deal? Campaigners win extension in bid to buy Castle Toward


Plans to purchase Castle Toward given 2 weeks to find PS1m

COMMUNITY campaigners in Argyll have won a short reprieve for their hopes to purchase Castle Toward estate from Argyll and Bute council.

Plans to buy the derelict estate for the community previously had until 31 January to negotiate concessions from the council, which is accused of incompetence and financial irregularities over its handling of the bid.

Alan Stewart, Director of South Cowal Community Development Company (SCCDC), the community group which has constructed the business plan, said: “It’s a two-week extension. It’s for us to look at things, but the council are still looking for the full PS1.75m. We are reviewing our options.

“The reality is they are asking for PS1.75m for a place that is worth only PS750,000. We now have a fortnight to work on it and see if it’s possible.”

SCCDC have the support of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Government for their business plan to renovated the abandoned site, invest in its assets and employ residents in a range of business and educational pursuits.

The backtracking from Argyll and Bute council follows the intervention from Scottish Government Minister Alex Neil MSP, who called for an extension to the 31 January deadline.

The council’s decision to stick to the PS1.75m valuation is despite independent research by Savils that place the value at PS750,000.

The SCCDC proposals were given PS750,000 from the Scottish Land Fund and also receive 95 per cent support in a community referendum.

Council leader Dick Walsh is facing a motion of no confidence on Tuesday regarding his handling of the issue.

Lorna Ahlquist, a community campaigner, said: “Dick seems to be digging his heels in and staying put on price and conditions. It seems the only way to shift him is to shift all those councillors who voted against.”

The council, company and local campaign now have until the 13 February to reach a resolution.

If that deadline passes the estate is likely to be sold on the open market. With no other identified bidder and questions over the estate’s value, another sales process would risk further wrangling.

Argyll and Bute council had not responded to a request for comment by time of publication.

Image courtesy of GPS.