CONTROVERSIAL DEVELOPMENT PLANS that would have required the sale of common good land in Forres could finally be at an end.
A meeting of the policy and resources committee unanimously agreed a recommendation to Full Council that the proposals by Aberdeen-based developers Redco Milne are refused.
Following several years during which Redco Milne, who already own property adjoining the common good land on Bogton Road in the Moray town, have sought to build a retail complex the view of councillors is that the only remaining option on offer posed too great a risk.
It had been expected that Councillors would be faced with two options for the disposal of the land alongside a the third option that they reject outright any sale. However, at the outset of Tuesday’s meeting one of the two sale options was withdrawn – the so-called ‘traditional approach’ that would have seen Moray Council receiving a capital sum.
That option was considered by council officers as “unviable” – leaving only an “income strip approach” which would have involved a capital sum as well as ongoing income from any subsequent development.
After discussing the risks involved in such an approach and realisation of the risks it posed for both the Council and Forres Common Good, Councillor Allan Wright proposed that Redco Milne should be advised that the local authority did not wish to proceed with the sale.
That was seconded by Councillor Anne Skene, who commented that the high risk the remaining option did not make it an attractive proposition at a time of political and economic uncertainty.
She said: “There are no guarantees that the proposal would not result in a large deficit which would have to be borne by the Common Good Fund and the council. The Common Good Fund could be completely drained and the council could find itself in serious financial difficulties.”
It is now expected that a meeting of the Full Council on November 11 will ratify the decision and finally put an end to the sale proposals.
The online campaign group formed three years ago to fight any plans to sell the Bogton Road land were in full celebration mode last night as news of the council decision sunk in.
Forres Community Council chairman and leader of the campaign, Stewart Noble, currently on holiday in Crete, called for a celebration party even ahead of the final full council decision next month.
He said: “I am so happy I could run naked down the beach – It’s a good job I am in Crete! It’s been a long hard struggle over three years by so many people in the town.
“Over 1400 of us worked on the Battle for Bogton Facebook Group – everyone gave their time for free for the benefit of Forres and I am so pleased for us all.
“There are too many people to thank but I am especially glad that our Moray Councillors have finally backed their constituents. The press has been fantastic but I think we should also thank Redco Milne and Forres Mechanics for helping to pull the town together over this important issue.
“Now at last our High Street traders can develop their plans to make our High Street more vibrant. Redco Milne can now focus on the land they already own and make their plans.
“This is very timely news as Forres folk are now participating in an exciting ‘Planning for Real’ process where we will all contribute to the future design of our green and public spaces. The Forres 2020 Vision can now kick off with the opportunity for Forres folk to decide what happens on our common good land at Bogton and elsewhere.
“There have already been suggestions for a Travelodge, a car park for the Cans, a skateboard park, bike circuits, allotments, campsite, a 1K jogging track, outdoor activity centre and many other ideas. Forres folk will now decide as it’s our town and we know best what we need for the future.
“There will be a victory party when I get home using the funds we still have in our kitty. Power to the People.”