Council offices in the centre of Forfar have finally been vacated, more than four years after being at the centre of a controversial Wetherspoons ‘superpub’ plan.
Voluntary Action Angus is taking over the sprawling accommodation at 5-7 The Cross, with Angus councillors making the move to converted offices across the road in the town’s municipal buildings connected to the Town and County Hall debating chamber.
The 9,500 square foot buildings at The Cross became mired in controversy in August 2014 when details of a secret £400,000 deal with the national pub chain emerged.
The prospect of a private sale of the 19th century building sparked furore, triggering claims the council was “selling off the family silver” amid bitter words between local councillors.
It also led to a bidding war after a local businessman made an £450,000 offer for the property with a view to creating a boutique hotel.
Neither that deal, or a revised JD Wetherspoon offer of £50,000 less than its original bid, materialised and the three-story property was eventually put on the open market.
Angus Council has not disclosed the sum received for the offices, comprising two former bank buildings, a garage, store and parking to the rear, and latterly used as accommodation for elected members.
At the time of the proposed sale in 2014, former council chief executive Richard Stiff said if The Cross was not disposed of, the authority would have to find the cash to deal with “documented maintenance requirements” totalling £417,000 for the following two years.
A council spokesman said councillors have now moved to the former Access office in the municipal buildings, with additional office space in Town and County Hall, where meetings of the authority take place.
“The buildings are connected via a link bridge allowing all members’ services to be delivered from a single location.
“The flit further reduces the number of the council’s operational buildings as part of the agile programme, which identified 5-7 The Cross as surplus to requirements.
“Voluntary Action Angus (VAA) takes over the running costs and any future repair costs at 5-7 The Cross,” said a spokesman.
“The sale reduces council overheads and ongoing revenue costs as part of the local authority’s radical plans to address the significant budget gap.
Council leader, Arbroath Independent David Fairweather said: “I’m sure all the councillors will join with me in welcoming this move which saves money now and in the future and helps us to reduce our carbon footprint.
“We are also excited to be welcoming a valued partner to The Cross – one that does so much great work across Angus.”