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Lochside Leisure Centre: Forfar football trust must wait six weeks to learn if rescue plan is a winner

FCFT vice-chairman Nicola McBride and Alastair Wilson, chairman of Station Park Community Trust.
FCFT vice-chairman Nicola McBride and Alastair Wilson, chairman of Station Park Community Trust.

The group behind a bid to save an Angus sports centre from the wrecking ball faces a further wait to learn if their community trust plan is a winner.

It comes after councillors delayed a decision on the final fate of Forfar’s Lochside leisure centre until June 24.

That date looks like being either the full stop on the story of the structure – or the start of a new chapter for the 40-year-old building.

The centre closed for more than four years ago.

Lochside closed in February 2017 and councillors voted to knock it down a year later.

A landmark Court of Session ruling after two local businessmen challenged the demolition decision led to a stay of execution.

Community football trust plan

Forfar Community Football Trust is now leading the last-ditch effort to keep it standing for community use.

Their hope is to create an umbrella trust for the clubs, groups and organisations who would use the centre.

Its position on the edge of Forfar Loch in the town’s country park is seen as a key asset.

Council infrastructure director Ian Cochrane said the depth and breadth of an FCFT proposal submitted at the end of last month required more time for full scrutiny.

“Due to the limited time between receipt of the submission and finalisation of the council reports it has not yet been possible for officers to fully consider the legal, financial and operational implications of what is a very detailed submission.

Nicola McBride and Alastair Wilson of FCFT at the Forfar Loch-facing rear of the centre.

“It is important that these implications are fully and appropriately provided to elected members so that they can be fully informed of all relevant and necessary detail before taking any future decision in terms of the former leisure centre.”

Damning review of decision-making

Forfar Conservative councillor Braden Davy said: “I welcome the fact there are community groups coming forward.

“It shows there was, and has been, a community appetite for retaining this building.

“We initially had quite a headlong rush into demolition, which ended up in the courts.

“Perhaps it won’t lead to anything, but I think it was wrong we didn’t explore these options previously.”

He said the council had been on the end of a “pretty damning view of the entire decision-making process” around Lochside.

Old equipment lay for years inside the main hall of the closed down centre.

“This allows us to present a full range of options to councillors and to move on from where we were,” he added.

“I sometimes wonder if all the time spent fighting this decision in the courts and elsewhere was spent on trying to work out if we could get a use for this building then we’d be in a much better position.

“Part of this is that community groups spent their time trying to fight this decision rather than trying to support it.

“Should things work out, or should they not work out, at least we can say we have investigated every possibility fully.

“It would be a dereliction of all our duties if we didn’t properly explore all of the options.”

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