The full heft of Edzell opinion against planned demolition of the former Inglis Court sheltered housing complex has been delivered right to the door of Angus Council.
A petition bearing nearly 800 local signatures was posted through the letterbox of the authority’s Angus House headquarters in Forfar by Inveresk Community Council chairman Gus Leighton on Wednesday.
They were gathered in the space of just ten days following an open-air protest meeting at the bulldozer-threatened housing scheme.
Inglis Court is at the centre of a £3.5 million redevelopment plan which will see the 25 existing flats knocked down and replaced with 21 new homes.
The scheme has been widely opposed locally, with the authority’s own planners previously questioning whether knocking down the existing homes represents best value to the public purse.
However, finance and communities convener Mark Salmond has hit out at what he says is “a lot of mis-information” surrounding Inglis Court.
The redevelopment plan was originally approved in late 2018, with planning councillors giving the green light to the detailed scheme earlier this year.
Demand for full council meeting
The community council petition of 766 signatures has called for a full meeting of Angus Council to reconsider the future of the complex.
Mr Leighton, a community councillor for eight years and chairman for the last five, said: “There are nearly 800 signatures on the petition from Edzell and the area surrounding it, which I think sends out a very strong message to Angus Council.
“I asked the Provost to accept the handover of the petition but got no response so have had to just post it through the letterbox.
“I think that’s typical of the level of respect that they show for the community councils.”
He added: “There was a groundswell of opposition when the library closed, and then the protest which prevented the closure of Stracathro school, but neither of those registered the strength of feeling this has.
“We had around 180 people at the protest meeting and due to that sizeable turnout the community council then took it up and raised the petition.
“Inglis Court was run down, and it was run down intentionally to progress this plan.
“As the petition states, we want it returned to its designed use of sheltered housing with a live-in warden.
“If the council can’t do that they should put it on the open market with the proviso that whoever takes it on must provide that.
“It should not be demolished to make way for new housing. That just doesn’t make sense.
“The decision-making on this has been done in silos; the people looking at the plans for the new houses weren’t allowed to ask about Inglis Court and the people who decided to knock it down didn’t come to see it.”
The authority said the petition will be considered by councillors as it contains more than 50 signatories.
An unsolicited offer for Inglis Court will also be debated, in what will be the ninth report to elected members regarding the future of the complex.
Finance and communities convener Mark Salmond said: “There is such a lot of mis-information going around about Inglis Court when the truth is really very simple.
“We are simply changing properties that no one wants, into highly desirable, affordable family homes that local people desperately want and need in order to stay in the communities where they grew up, put down roots and where their extended families live.
“The new proposed development also includes 10 properties for people who have particular needs as they are located on the ground floor and are therefore suitable for wheelchair users.
“The money for the conversion is coming in part from Scottish Government because they too see the need for this type of affordable, rural housing.
“Residents were more than happy to see the local primary school extended, so now we’re providing homes for families in the area too.
“Older people are no longer forced to sell their family homes and find retirement properties because of Self Directed Support. This means that they can be supported to stay safely in their own homes which they greatly prefer.”
He added: “If communities like Edzell are to thrive, we must provide family homes, and all this is borne out by the facts.
“When Inglis Court closed, it was only two-thirds occupied. By contrast, the 55 social houses we already have in Edzell are all fully let and there’s a waiting list for 215 more people.
“I have no idea why some people would be so set against this development, but I urge them to look at the true facts, all of which are in the public domain.”
The sheltered housing complex was built in 1977 and underwent modernisation in 2012. The proposed redevelopment will increase the number of bed spaces on the site from 54 to 64.
In a separate development, community council chairman Mr Leighton has written to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman seeking an investigation into what has been claimed is a misuse of public money across the district Angus Council’s
“Angus Council often tell us that their budgets are stretched so, for example, more road repairs can’t be undertaken.
“Yet they can apparently spend about £2m to demolish a perfectly good building, worth at least £400,000, to build 21 social housing units which to the untrained eye appear sub-standard.
“Some of the units are to have exposed outside stairs, some have no garden space, there is no room for garden sheds to store bicycles or children’s garden toys, and there will be insufficient car parking available. This would not be 21st century housing.
“This apparent misuse of public money has been noticed across Angus, so it is not just the Edzell area which wants this matter properly investigated,” he wrote in the SPSO submission.