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Contractor fined for razing Perthshire mansion owned by Ann Gloag

David Kerr
David Kerr.

A demolition contractor who contravened bat protection laws when he razed a mansion on an estate owned by Stagecoach tycoon Dame Ann Gloag was fined after a sheriff said he had been “duped” into carrying out the work.

David Kerr, 74, was said to have acted on the instructions of businessmen described as “friends of the Gloag family”.

Stirling Sheriff Court heard five-bedroom Glassingall House, near Dunblane – which boasted its own swimming pool, squash court and tennis court – had been vacant for two years and had become home to “a variety of wildlife”, including bats and birds.

Prosecutor Karon Rollo said it had been bought by Glasingall Estate Ltd for £850,000 in March 2018.

Ms Rollo, the depute fiscal, told the court: “The owner is Ann Gloag, of Stagecoach.”

Ms Rollo said a pre-planning application had been submitted for 135 holiday chalets and a sports complex at the site but at the time of the destruction, there was no demolition warrant issued or even requested.

‘Distressed bats’ seen by public

On June 11 2020, members of the public visited the mansion to look at newts that had made their home in the swimming pool.

Ms Rollo said: “They observed a large machine pulling the house down.

“One of them saw a bat come of of the house, swoop, and fly back up again.

A bat was seen “distressed and disturbed”.

“As an ecologist, they knew this was abnormal behaviour as bats don’t come out during the day.

“It was distressed and disturbed.”

Other locals went to the scene, drawn by “loud bangs” and found two blue tit chicks – one dead – on the ground.

“Agitated blue tits” were flying about.

The house was then seen on fire, with Kerr and a big yellow digger with his name on it close by.

‘Project manager’ was Anthony Gloag

Police and firefighters attended and two Range Rovers arrived.

The court heard three men got out, one of whom identified himself as Antony Gloag, Ann Gloag’s grandson.

He said he was the “project manager” and was unaware of the fire.

The other two men were identified as Graham Gillespie and his brother Alfie.

Ms Rollo said: “The Gillespies were uncooperative with the police and were seen laughing at the locus.

“It’s not known why they were present. It’s understood they are friends of the Gloag family.”

Kerr was formally arrested later.

David Kerr.

Ms Rollo said: “He stated he had been employed by Graham Gillespie to knock the house down.”

Defence position

Kerr, 74, of Castlecary, near Cumbernauld, pled guilty to intentionally or recklessly destroying the nest of a blue tit while it was in use or being built and damaging or destroying a bat roost at the estate.

The charge stated he contravened the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and the 1994 Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations by demolishing Glassingall House while the property “contained a bat roost” and a blue tit nest within the roof structure.

Defence agent Joanne Whitelaw said Kerr was an experienced demolition expert.

The estate is owned by Perthshire entrepreneur Dame Ann Gloag.

She said: “He was told: ‘It’s Ann Gloag, of course all the paperwork would be in place’.

“His position is that he was acting on instructions from Graham Gillespie and his brother Alfie Gillespie.

“He was told by the Gillespies themselves that they were representatives of Ann Gloag.

“In June 2020 he received a telephone call from Graham Gillespie, who said: ‘Want to do a wee job for me – knocking down a house for Ann Gloag?'”

He met the Gillespies at nearby motorway services, then went to the site, where Graham Gillespie was again present.

Miss Whitelaw added: “He would not have proceeded if he had been aware of any roosts or animals in place.”

‘Duped’

She said that Kerr is now being sued by Glassingall Estates for “hundreds of thousands of pounds” for demolishing the house and had not been paid a penny for the demolition.

Sheriff Keith O’Mahony fined Kerr £740.

He said: “I accept, to some extent, you were duped into carrying out this demolition.

“Nevertheless, you didn’t check that the appropriate permissions and warrants were in place.”

Dame Ann said in 2019 that she was donating land on the Glassingall estate to Active Stirling – Stirling Council’s arms-length sports management company – for a proposed outwardbound centre.

The multi-millionairess said at the time the plans would “bring back life and economic activity to the idyllic grounds of the Glassingall Estate, creating much needed rural jobs and providing a unique destination that will allow all its visitors to escape from the cities and explore this beautiful part of Scotland”.

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