The saga surrounding the future of Forfar’s former Lochside leisure centre has been branded a “fiasco” after a top-level admission that the authority considered backtracking on bulldozing the building.
Months after the council rejected a suggestion there had been a developer approach to take on the crumbling property, it has emerged a potential buyer came forward this summer.
Council chief executive Margo Williamson told scrutiny and audit councillors two elected members had raised the issue in August, suggesting a potential interest that might allow the authority to offload the building and avoid the projected half million pound demolition costs.
The chief executive told members she believed the original committee decision to demolish the building was the “safe” one, but added: “Our housekeeping and records back to 2013 and the provision of options could have been, and must become, much better.”
An external survey of the centre, which was boarded up in February 2017 following the creation of the town’s community campus, took place last month.
The report to scrutiny councillors also revealed the previously stated demolition of cost of £500,000 was not for knocking down the building alone, but included £200,000 for the creation of a store and toilets at the site.
In April, councillors also agreed to pump £40,000 of Forfar Common Good cash into new toilet provision beside the country park rangers’ office next to the centre.
The latest revelations have further angered Forfar SNP councillor Lynne Devine, who said she had been met with “obfuscation” since the demolition decision was taken and had no confidence the wrecking ball will swing before the end of the year.
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“Back in May I was assured demolition work would begin soon, and I now find that a year before a report was prepared suggesting it be put on the open market, which as a Forfar member I knew nothing about,” she said.
“Even worse, we read that the depute leader raised in August the idea that we revisit the demolition decision, but in the meantime every time I have asked about the delay I have been met with nothing but obfuscation.
“I despair over what has happened here and I would absolutely hope that it is demolished, the ground reinstated and the toilets put in by Easter in time for visitors arriving.”
Carnoustie Independent Brian Boyd called for the demolition plan to be put on hold.
“We are so cash strapped that if there is a chance of a buyer we should go back to the drawing board and make the right decision,” he said.
“It is a fiasco and I really don’t know what is going on here.”
The chief executive told Mr Boyd the ruling by the council’s policy and resources committee to demolish the centre was “the right decision, and that decision still stands.”