The saga surrounding an Angus Council homeless unit which has sat empty for 15 years has been branded a “bloody waste” by the last person to work there.
It comes after we revealed how Queen’s Close in Montrose will be put back on the market after a knockdown price deal collapsed.
The town centre listed building has been a drain on Angus taxpayers since a £355,000 upgrade after a tragic fatal fire there in 2007.
Jill Scott worked there as a housing support planner and said the 15-year debacle had been an “abject failure” on the part of the local authority.
And she says the council could salvage a crumb of respect by opening the unit’s doors to Ukrainian refugees who may arrive in Angus.
“What has happened at Queen’s Close is an absolute disgrace,” she said.
“I think the council should be ashamed that they have let down the people it was supposed to support – and the taxpayers who it has cost so much without giving one single person a bed.”
‘It was a nice place to work’
Mrs Scott, who now works in harm reduction, is chairwoman of Brechin Community Council.
She said: “I was a housing support planner based in Queen’s Close and was on duty on that terrible night of the fatal fire.
“It was an appalling tragedy involving a lovely man.
“It was a nice place to work. People were supported and we did our best to help them move on with their lives.
“After the fire I still had an office at the very top of the building. Then one day I got a phone call out of the blue to say we had 24 hours to get out.”
Jill wasn’t back in Queen’s Close until after the project to create 11 en-suite bedsits, four communal kitchens and other facilities was complete.
“It’s lovely – what a fantastic job they made of it,” she said.
“But that makes me all the more angry that such a great facility has been left to sit empty for so many years.
“And we now learn we are no further forward with it.
“We constantly hear about the need for more housing. Especially for those who find themselves in the most challenging of situations.
“So to have this lying empty for 15 years really is an abject failure and the council should be ashamed.
“I don’t know what will happen and I can’t imagine it will sell quickly, or for a lot of money.
“But it’s been maintained because we know how much it cost on upkeep in the years after it was refurbished.
“Could that make it suitable for Ukrainian refugees coming to Angus?
“At the very least I think it’s something that should be considered in the short term to try and rescue something from what’s been a disaster for Montrose and Angus.”
The council said: “Queen’s Close is being marketed for sale as the potential buyer pulled out. The title situation has been resolved.”
A catalogue of human and financial cost – The Queen’s Close timeline
2007 Tragedy strikes at the Angus Council homeless unit in Montrose town centre when a man dies in a fire.
The listed building is closed and work begins to refurbish it into 11 en-suite units with communal kitchens and laundry facilities.
2009 Improvement works are completed.
The final bill is £355,000 – £100k over budget.
A bid to secure an HMO (House of Multiple Occupation) licence fails. Angus Council is also unable to get a housing association to take on the sprawling property.
2010 The council uses Queen’s Close for storage.
Plans are drawn up to put a management arrangement with an independent operator in place but they fall through.
August 2015 Angus councillors declare Queen’s Close surplus to requirements and agree to sell it off.
Officials brand the building’s layout “tortuous and unsatisfactory” for homeless accommodation.
August 2017 Queen’s Close remains on the market at an asking price of offers over £200,000.
A freedom of information request reveals more than £100k has been spent maintaining the empty building to that point.
November 2017 Councillors agree to accept an offer of £110,000 for the listed four-story building.
The saga is labelled a ‘sorry story in the annals of Angus Council’ by one town councillor.
November 2020 It emerges title deeds complications have delayed the six-figure deal being concluded.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has added to what the council’s housing manager said was a “frustrating” chain of events.
March 2022 Angus Council reveal the deal has collapsed.
The title deeds issue is resolved but the potential buyer has pulled out.
Queen’s Close is to go back on the market.