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‘A victory for democracy’ as council throws towel in over disused Angus leisure centre court fight

The Lochside Leisure Centre which closed in February 2017.
The Lochside Leisure Centre which closed in February 2017.

Angus Council has admitted defeat in the fight over Forfar’s former Lochside leisure centre by deciding not to continue the costly battle in Britain’s highest court.

In a marathon session behind closed doors, councillors decided not to challenge a recent ruling of the Inner House of the Court of Session that the authority had been wrong to agree to raze the Forfar Loch centre down without public consultation.

The authority’s leader branded the legal action an “unwelcome distraction” during the Covid-19 crisis but said the financial risk of fighting on was “too great”.

Forfar businessmen Mark Guild and Donald Stewart launched the action against the £500,000 demolition plan after claiming the authority had acted unlawfully.

Mark Guild (left) and Donald Stewart have led the fight to save the centre from demolition.

The centre was closed in 2017 when it was replaced by new facilities at Forfar Community Campus but despite a council engineer’s report saying it is falling down those hoping to save it say there are decades of life left in the structure.

The council decision now clears the way for community consultation and Mr Guild said it was a “victory for democracy and common sense”.

“All we ever wanted was for the council to consult the Forfar public on the future of Lochside leisure centre and they are going to have to do that now.

“I’m delighted the court case is over, but this was never about just an old building.

The centre was closed in February 2017.

“It is about the willingness of Angus Council to waste public money.

“If you are wrong, you put your hands up and say you’re wrong.

“We want a willing partner to work alongside us to achieve things together, but it is just a constant battle,” said Mr Guild.

The Supreme Court was the remaining appeal avenue open to the council, but authority leader David Fairweather said the financial risk of losing was “too great”.

Court costs for both sides have run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and who foots the final bill is yet to be determined.

Administration chief Mr Fairweather said: “To be clear, the council did not bring any legal proceedings in this matter, but, rather, has only sought to defend itself from court actions brought against it by others.

“If we were to appeal this, given the council’s adherence to the principle of obtaining best value for the public purse, the financial risk of losing would be too great.”

A report on the centre’s future will come to councillors in due course.

Forfar Conservative councillor Braden Davy said: “Any consultation must not be a rubber-stamp job.

“We need to work hard to restore the reputation of Angus Council – we can do that by listening to the public.”

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