Council could call time on The Cross

The future of 5-7 The Cross will be decided by councillors on Thursday.
The future of 5-7 The Cross will be decided by councillors on Thursday.

Councillors will this week be faced with a stark choice over the future of the offices at The Cross in Forfar - whether or not to sell the building to pub chain JD Wetherspoon.

Elected members will also be asked to approve the sale of the building for £350,000, £50,000 less than the company offered when it tried to buy the offices last year.

The move prompted a row in which the authority was accused of “selling the family silver” and attracted an alternative offer of £450,000 which was put forward by businessman Ken Parke.

Despite agreeing to sell the building in a private, councillors then decided to put the building at 5-7 The Cross on the open market.

In a report by chief executive Richard Stiff to go before full council today (Thursday), it is revealed that no formal offers were put forward by the closing date of December 12 last year.

JD Wetherspoon later submitted the reduced bid of £350,000.

In his report, Mr Stiff said that the council is faced with the choice of taking the offer or finding more than £400,000 in the next three years to maintain the Victorian buildings, which are due to be vacated by councillors and officials.

The news has been greeted with disappointment by Isobel Ross, Forfar Community Council chairwoman, who said that Wetherspoon’s have the council “in the palm of their hand”.

She continued: “I really don’t think that’s right, but this is what happens when these things are discussed and decided behind closed doors.

“The property should have been valued and put on the open market at the start and although someone else came along that hasn’t been followed through. It has been badly handled and this has let down the town of Forfar very badly.”

Mrs Ross also said that she feels the plans, to convert the building into a bar, restaurant and hotel, would ruin the civic heart of the town.

She added: “I would rather see the building left as it is than see another pub in the centre of town. I don’t care how they dress it up, it really is the only place we can have a civic occasion, such as Remembrance Sunday and Armed Forces Day and I don’t fancy, as chair of the community council, laying a wreath in November in front of a pub. I just don’t think that’s right having that with a pub backdrop.”

The pub chain’s offer remains conditional on planning consent, building warrants and the relevant licences being obtained.