Council bosses have pledged to find the best possible buyer for Dundee’s Dudhope Castle to preserve the historic building.
More than 500 people signed a petition calling for the former military base to be turned into a tourist attraction, after it was announced Dundee City Council planned to sell.
The castle is currently empty and was most recently used as council offices but a report outlining its sale said it could be sold privately and turned into a hotel or housing.
The council’s city development committee agreed to put the castle on the market, but asked officers to explore community asset transfers and long-term leases as well as sales.
It is hoped this may see Dudhope Castle taken over by a charity or heritage group, such as National Trust for Scotland to allow it to be opened to the public.
SNP councillor Anne Rendall, who is a lifelong member of Dundee Civic Trust, said: “We are all aware of Dudhope Castle’s status as an important part of Dundee’s history and heritage.
“It will continue to stand watching over the city for decades to come.
“I hope a suitable buyer can be found who will continue to preserve the fabric and heritage of the castle.”
Calls were made to defer a decision at Monday night’s meeting but this was rejected by 15 votes to 11.
Labour councillor Richard McCready, who proposed the delay, said this would allow officers to speak to heritage organisations about future uses.
“We are merely custodians of Dudhope Castle and we have a duty to make sure it is preserved as best we can,” he said.
“We are the only local authority in Scotland that the National Trust for Scotland does not have a property in.
“We should be speaking to them and looking to contact others.
“There is no rush and I’m asking for more information so we can make an informed decision about the future of Dudhope Castle.”
The A-listed castle has a rich history and is one of the oldest buildings in Dundee.
It was originally built in the late 13th Century by the Scrymgeour family, who were appointed Hereditary Constables of Dundee by William Wallace.
Most recently it was used as council offices but was vacated in 2018.
The council is still responsible for its security and maintenance and will continue to preserve it until a new owner is found.
Future tourist attraction?
There have been calls to turn Dudhope Castle into a tourist attraction so the inside can be enjoyed, as well as the floral garden which is currently open to the public.
Robin Presswood, the council’s executive director of city development, said “every potential lead” will be considered but pointed out that charities have been hit hard by coronavirus closures.
In September the National Trust axed 15 of its countryside rangers, as part of 188 redundancies and a £30 million loss of income.
“It absolutely is our intention to find a suitable future custodian,” said Mr Presswood.
“If the community or third sector or heritage group can access funding for a community asset transfer we would certainly be very keen to speak to them.
“We will consider every potential lead to find a suitable guardian.
“It is very much about preserving this gem and securing the future of the castle.
“It is important that we do not defer the decision in the hope that someone will turn it into a tourist attraction because in the current climate that would be challenging.”
Any developer hoping to buy or lease Dudhope Castle will have to follow strict conditions to be decided by the council and Historic Environment Scotland.
No building will be allowed in the immediate surrounding area of the castle, to protect its A-listed status, but “limited new development” will be permitted elsewhere on the grounds.
Any proposed sale or lease must be agreed by the city development committee and a chance of use will require planning permission.