Demand that promises over Forres land sale ballot are kept

Public opinion has to be heard over land sale

PEOPLE IN FORRES must be given another chance to have their say over proposals to sell off common good land to developers Redco Milne.

Next week councillors will discuss options presented by a much delayed consultancy report on proposals by the Aberdeen-based developers, who it was revealed on Thursday now wish to create an 80-bedroom hotel on the site as well as retail units.

Years of wrangling over the site were thought to have come to an end when a public vote was firmly in favour of retaining the common good land and not selling it for any development. However, Redco Milne came back with a renewed plan that received conditional planning permission from Moray Council – sparking anger in the local community.

Now campaigners are angered that yet another plan is being presented by Redco Milne that is not considered by them to be very different from the original and rejected proposals.

A consultant was tasked with the job of looking at options available to the local authority over a possible sale of the common good land to the developers, conducted against a backdrop of continued opposition. A report will be presented to the Council’s policy and resources committee next week with three options on the table.

Two of these involve selling the common good land in exchange for two possible outcomes to the Common Good of £1.5million or £4.1million – the latter carrying risks to both the Common Good fund and Moray Council.

In both cases, however, the Common Good would be expected to pay for the relocation of Forres Mechanics FC – a condition of the original planning permission being granted – at an estimated cost of £3.5million.

The third and final option available is outright rejection of any further talks on selling the common good land.

Last night the chairman of the Forres Community Council, who has also been leading the online campaign against the sale of the land, insisted that if promises are kept any sale would have to be over the heads of the town’s residents.

Stewart Noble said: “Forres Community Council has received written confirmation from the Moray Council Chief Executive that before anything is finalised, the people of Forres will be postal balloted.

“That also included an undertaking that the Forres Community Council will be consulted on how the ballot will take place and what the question will be. I have no doubt that more than 70% of local people will say No to this again.

“Our elected councillors run a very serious risk of being seen to be out of touch with their constituents if they vote to proceed with this – the ‘Forres 4’ will not be forgiven easily.

“They must persuade the other 22 councillors on the wishes of Forres residents and reject this bid outright.”