A Perthshire community state they’ve been left with a feeling of “acute injustice” after claiming an empty hotel has been left mouldering and is an “eyesore” blighting their village.
Members of the Glenfarg Community Company are angered that no work has taken place to build 12 flats at the site of the Glenfarg Hotel, a year after Perth and Kinross Council’s local review body controversially approved plans to convert the building by a narrow two votes to one.
This left many villagers seething as the local authority had previously refused the plans, which were submitted by Arngask Hotels Ltd. The residents’ ire was raised as council chiefs had initially rejected the proposal, stating it was contrary to the council’s local development plan as well as being contrary to the Scottish Government’s planning policy.
However, Arngask Hotels Ltd appealed this decision which resulted in Perth and Kinross Council’s local review body meeting and then agreeing to overturn the planning officer’s recommendation to knock back the appeal.
Prior to this John Hewitt, who ran the Glenfarg Hotel, decided to close its doors in November 2015, stating he was making “heavy” financial losses, while also claiming he and his family were the victims of a “malicious” social media campaign instigated by some villagers.
The Glenfarg Community Company had considered legal action against Perth and Kinross Council following the local review body’s decision, but decided not to pursue this due to the cost involved. However, Steve Whiting, a member of the group and a former owner of the Glenfarg Hotel, claims the building has been allowed to fall into disrepair and is aghast that no work has begun on converting it into flats.
“The situation with the Glenfarg Hotel – now nearly 18 months on from its premature closing – remains very depressing for the village and its residents,” he said.
“Any approach to the owner is met with a frosty response and reference to a highly inflated valuation based on the planning permission granted by the council’s local review body for the hotel to be developed into flats.
“There remains an overall feeling of acute injustice within the village as to just how such a chain of events has been allowed to befall Glenfarg.”
He added: “Particularly galling for villagers is the key argument put forward at the time by the owner and Councillor Joe Giacopazzi, who sat on the local review body, that the decision was made to ensure the hotel didn’t lie empty and fall into disrepair, thus becoming an eyesore to the village.
“This of course is exactly what is now happening. There is absolutely no sign of work commencing, which comes as no surprise to the village.
“The Glenfarg Community Company is working hard to source alternative licenced premises in the village that could also fulfil other social needs lost when the hotel closed. However, it is no easy task – a site and funding are both major hurdles to overcome.”
Councillor Giacopazzi said the local review body’s decision was made on the “understanding” of planning law and practice.
“It was objective and I stand by that,” he said.
“One thing you can’t do is to guarantee what will be subsequently be built after the decision.
“The decision gave a second option and if the Glenfarg Community Company wants to buy the building they will need to take that up with the owner.”
Mr Hewitt said he had “no comment” to make on the matter.