THE FUTURE OF common good land at Bogton Road in Forres should finally be decided when a report goes before members of the policy and resources committee at Moray Council next week.
Committee members will be asked to make their recommendation to the Full Council on how or if the plans from developers Redco Milne should be progressed – plans that have been expanded by the developers who wish to create much more than they had previously stated for “market reasons”.
The Aberdeen-based firm was already controversially granted planning permission for a supermarket, filling station and three non-food retail outlets – but committee members will be told that they now have plans for an 80-bedroom hotel, food outlet, drive-through and eight retail units, with the new cost of the development put at close on £20million.
While Redco Milne already own part of the site on which their development is being planned, the greater bulk remains Common Good land, with consultants outlining two options in the event that there is agreement in the council on the disposal of that land.
Options are for a ‘traditional approach’ that would see disposal of the land to the developer for a capital sum, while there is also an ‘income strip approach’ where the council would receive a capital sum as well as ongoing rental income from the development.
The first approach would result in £1.5million income to the Common Good Fund in Forres, while the second would generate £4.1million plus £242,000 a year.
Either approach would create an estimated 469 jobs – however, the ‘income strip approach’ would carry a much higher degree of financial risk which the council would be required to underwrite.
A third option, and the one supported by campaigners against the sale of the common good land, is that the council tell the developer they do not wish to proceed with the disposal of the land, drawing a line once and for all under the proposals.The development plans were halted when a local survey overwhelmingly rejected the sale of the land
Forres Mechanics FC
Should any development go ahead the deal would require Highland League side Forres Mechanics to relocate from Mosset Park which is located on the common good land. The report outlines discussions that have taken place and the specification for a new stadium to be built.
On that the report states: “The costs will effectively be met from the Common Good’s share of the proceeds from the transaction and for an enhanced facility, as preferred by the football club, are estimated at £3.5million.”
Providing a new home for the football club was a requirement of the planning consent granted for the development in June 2013. It was one of the main reasons people voted firmly against the sale of the common good land when they were polled on an earlier bid by the developers – one almost identical to the revised bid they being placed before Councillors next week.
Should the retail development proceed, the report says that it is very difficult to gauge accurately the likely date for completion, but that it was likely the ‘traditional approach’ would take a minimum of 18 months. The second option would likely take a minimum of 30 months.
The report also recognises that a decision is required sooner rather than later, saying: “It is recognised that delays and uncertainly will cause continuing concerns in the local community.”
Last night online campaigners against any sale of the land were quick to react against the new development.
Local business owner Bob Hellyer said: “It would appear that the Common Good will have to find £3.5M to move the Forres Mechanics so that this plan can go ahead. Do Redco Milne think that we are stupid? This does not make business sense to me I am afraid.
“If we were offered £1.5M and the proposer relocated the Mechanics I might think about it – possibly.”
Jacqueline Barrere added: “Isn’t the ‘expanded plan’ what Redco Milne originally proposed in 2007/8 and after consulting with the public scaled back to the plan given outline permission? The financial offer does not offer anything except risk to the council and the people of Forres.
“Forres would still have to rebuild the football stadium from the money received from any sale and in the traditional approach there is clearly not enough money to do this.
“With the income strip approach, the vast majority of money gained would be used to fund the stadium rebuild – the associated increased financial risk from the rented units falls on the council to cover and there is no guarantee that Forres would receive any income at all.”
Colin Lipscomb agreed with Ms Barrere, adding: “Nothing has changed in the Redco offer and we can only hope that the trustees of the common good realise that in time to reject this offer in its entirety.
“Our four Councillors should also realise that their responsibility is to us, the people of Forres, and not to Redco Milne, the Moray Council administration, the Development Management or even Forres Mechanics FC when they vote.”