A proposal to sell off a Perth city centre landmark for £1 to hotel developers has been defended with a claim it will spark a £7 million investment.
The local authority has come under fire for the plan, which would see 1-5 High Street sold for the nominal fee, with the council also putting £1.9 million in heritage funding towards the private sector project.
Cross-party councillors have raised concerns about the proposal since plans were unveiled last month.
Perth and Kinross Council currently spends £2.5 million a year renting office space at Pullar House, a few streets away. Elected members have asked why 1-5 High Street cannot be renovated to meet this need instead.
There is also anger the local authority charged a small community group £75,000 to purchase an outdoor centre in Kinloch Rannoch last month but could charge hotel developers only £1 for a more prominent building in the centre of Perth.
The council says an appraisal has established 1-5 High Street is not suitable for “efficient office accommodation”, a claim disputed by some councillors.
A spokesperson for the local authority said: “The council decided to appoint a preferred bidder for the building’s redevelopment as a boutique hotel following a full democratic debate in a private session of the council on July 30.
“There will be a further report to elected members before any decision on sale or a long-term lease.
“The proposed private sector investment in the building will be more than £7 million and the grant is required to ensure full restoration of the most important parts of the building’s fabric to allow public access.
“Without grant support, the building’s conversion is not viable and it will remain empty.
“The grant will secure the future of this historic property and cost less than the current maintenance and running costs.”
SNP councillor Tom Gray claims it has already been established the overhaul of the building would provide 100 work stations for £5 million, which he believes will suit local authority needs in a post-coronavirus world.
“It is both prudent and sound common sense to delay any decision on a hotel conversion until the council has established if its own future office requirements would be a fit at 1-5 High Street at the termination of the current Pullar House agreement.”
Independent councillor Xander McDade called the proposal to reuse 1-5 High Street as as office space at the end of the Pullar House agreement as a “no-brainer.”