All four local councillors in Forres are facing a backlash from campaigners seeking to halt the sale of common good land at Bogton Road after they backed a decision that officials hold further talks with developers.
Redco Milne have placed a value of £6.5million for a 35-year lease on the land that they wish to turn into a retail park. Around £1.5million of that sum would go towards creating a new stadium for Forres Mechanics FC with their current Mosset Park ground standing in the way of the development plans.
Councillors attending the policy and resources committee today (Tuesday) were faced with either allowing further study into the risks and opportunities associated with the proposal or throwing it out altogether.
They decided on the former – with a commitment to consult with the people of Forres before any final decisions on selling the land was taken. A previous consultation over the sale of the land held two years ago found 70% of local people did not wish the common good land to be sold.
At the Council today members were reminded that while it was the policy that two-thirds of interest accrued by common good cash was available for distribution each year, a capital sum could be spend on projects that benefited the local community as a whole.
Redco Milne, who have held an interest in developing the land for five years, say that under their offer ownership of the land would revert back to the common good at the end of a 35-year lease – and that would include part of the land that is currently owned by the Aberdeen-based company.
Urging the committee to allow talks to continue, corporate services director Mark Palmer told the committee: “In addition to the capital contribution and the reversion of ownership to the common good, the developer has made provision also for the council to share in the rental income generated from the development.
“The developer estimates that this could be around £225,000 per annum.
“However, agreement of the council to this proposal would require a thorough assessment of the risks required.”
The committee agreed unanimously to receive a further report to fully assess the risks and opportunities associated with the Redco Milne proposal while reaffirming the council’s commitment to consult with the people of Forres before coming to any decision on leasing the land.
There was, however, an angry reaction from local campaigners through their social media site this afternoon. Forres Community Councillor Stewart Noble, who set up the ‘Battle for Bogton’ page on Facebook, commented: “I can’t blame people for their diminishing Trust in Moray Council.
“Last June, George Alexander (a local independent councillor) assured us that there would be a public debate but he has done nothing. Now Forres Community Council are having to organise this.
“Redco assured folk in Bogton that they would be consulted before December. They have not but we have.
“If our own Councillors don’t listen to local people and do little to really assess public opinion for themselves – how can they truly represent our views and aspirations? Perhaps our councillors are just too busy to talk to local folk these days.
“However, I challenge any of them to pick any day and I will walk with them down the High Street and spend an hour consulting and asking opinions. I guarantee the vast majority will say No to this Shopping Mall in any form!
“I feel sorry for those caught up in the prolonged uncertainty because of this. Folk holding back from starting new businesses, employers uncertain on their future livelihoods, folk who can’t sell their houses. But yet we fight on for Forres and common sense.”