Senior Scottish judges have heard an online appeal in the latest stage of a Court of Session bid to halt the demolition of a disused Angus leisure centre.
In a three-hour virtual sitting, Lord Carloway, Lord Malcolm and Lord Menzies were presented with arguments by a QC representing two Forfar businessmen.
The appeal is against an earlier ruling to refuse a petition for judicial review of Angus Council’s decision to bulldoze the 45-year-old centre.
The building on the edge of Forfar Loch remains standing after plans to demolish it were delayed by the continuing legal row and the pandemic.
In a February judicial review application judgement, Lady Carmichael upheld Angus Council’s handling of the decision to knock down the centre, which was closed in February 2017 after its replacement with new facilities at Forfar Community Campus.
Angus housebuilder Mark Guild and town hotelier Donald Stewart mounted the legal fight after branding the demolition decision, taken by councillors in early 2019, as unlawful.
Mr Stewart, owner of Forfar’s Royal Hotel, wanted to convert the building into a cinema and cafe but had a £30,000 offer rejected.
Angus Council chief executive Margo Williamson said Lady Carmichael’s ruling confirmed the council acted “appropriately and with integrity” in its decision-making around the planned razing of the building.
In the original 30-page judgement, Lady Carmichael said the land would continue to be used for common good recreational purposes.
The main appeal arguments surround whether the planned knock-down triggered a community consultation requirement under new legislation.
Angus Council say that was not required since the demolition decision was made prior to the community empowerment changes and the land will remain common good.
The businessmen have also challenged the rationality of spending an estimated £500,000 on demolition of a building they believe has decades of life left in it. Angus Council engineers say the property is no longer serviceable.
The centre has cost the council more than £200,000 in rates, utilities and security since it was closed.
Despite the earlier ruling in favour of the local authority, Forfar Conservative administration councillor Braden Davy has demanded a full public consultation before work starts, saying the six-figure demolition would make the site the “most expensive piece of grass in Angus”.
Lord Carloway, the Lord President and most senior judge of Scotland’s supreme courts, told the conclusion of the online appeal hearing a written judgement would be delivered in the matter.
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