Brechin campaigners are refusing to give up the fight after a major setback in their health hub hopes for the town’s historic infirmary.
After years of behind the scenes work building a case to take over the empty hospital, Brechin Healthcare Group has seen its community asset transfer (CAT) bid rejected by NHS Tayside.
The group is now preparing an appeal against the decision.
It was taken at the latest meeting of NHS board and BHG have been told the health authority has concerns about the deliverability and sustainability of the project.
It also says the group’s £150,000 offer is too low in comparison to the market value of the prominent three-and-a-half acre site.
BHG has 20 days to lodge their appeal and group chairman Grahame Lockhart said they remain committed to delivering the wide-ranging community hub in the 152-year-old building.
However, they fear more months of delay will take its toll on the fabric of the old hospital, which was declared surplus to requirements in 2018.
The CAT request was initially submitted in March 2019 and validated in January 2020.
“Disappointed is putting it mildly – but we are perhaps not surprised,” said Mr Lockhart.
“We have taken so long to get to the point of this decision.
“There has been the Covid pandemic, then we were asked for more information, but were convinced from previous discussions that things were looking much more positive.
“Part of the difficulty is that they haven’t given us the detail of the reasons for refusal, so we can’t really address those.
“The appeal will be considered around the information they already have.”
BHG has applied to the Scottish Land Fund for £300,000 to purchase the site.
Local firm Forster Roofing is lined up as an anchor tenant for the project and has re-affirmed its commitment to the scheme.
Mr Lockhart added: “The other difficulty with the appeal situation is that it will probably involve another winter and further deterioration to the fabric of the building.”
BHG trustee Lindsay Cameron said: The ground was gifted to the people of Brechin, surely it is incumbent on them to retain it for the people of Brechin, certainly morally if not legally.
“They have also suggested the community benefits do not justify the discount sought and it would be interesting to know how they have calculated those community benefits.
“The cost of one suicide to the community is around £1.5 million.
“If we could save one suicide through this project that would surely be worth it.”
The group continues to operate its stop-gap Jenner Centre in the town’s former Santander Bank premises.
A range of organisations are using the facility to offer advice and support.
BHG secretary Nilima Puthu said: “Every day this week the diary is full, so we are already proving we are having a positive impact with what we are doing.”