Fallout continues over non sale

Angus Council leader Iain Gaul.
Angus Council leader Iain Gaul.

Forfar and its people “have been made a laughing stock” by Angus Council over its handling of the sale of offices to pub chain JD Wetherspoon.

The claim was made at Forfar Community Council’s last meeting by chairwoman Isobel Ross in the wake of the company’s withdrawal from a deal to acquire the premises at 5-7 The Cross.

The deal fell through after the company withdrew its offer of £350,000 for the building.

Mrs Ross said she is pleased the project is not now going ahead as “there would be nothing for the town”.

She continued: “Everything they would have used would have come on a lorry and all the money would go out through the back. There is apparently still £417,000 to be spent on repairs on the building, over and above the £147,000 spent over the last few years. I would question why it has been allowed to fall into such disrepair. I can see why anyone would walk away from that, it’s a non-starter.”

The council was criticised for agreeing to the sale at a private meeting last August. An alternative offer of £450,000 from businessman Ken Parke then prompted the local authority to place the building on the open market although the council said no firm bids were received. At another private meeting in March, Wetherspoon’s revised bid of £350,000 was accepted. The company’s recent withdrawal from the sale is believed to have been a “commercial decision”.

Mrs Ross continued: “The town and people of Forfar have been made a laughing stock. If it had been put on the market at the start it could have had a different outcome.”

The news caused some debate on the Dispatch’s Facebook page.

Kevin Wiseman said: “If Wetherspoon’s is so great why do they target towns where there are established pubs that have a decent trade? Did it in Helensburgh opening up on the opposite side of the street to a non-chain pub - that pub is now struggling to get any customers.”

Constance Burrows added: “There are too many pubs already.” Rebecca Herring said a similar situation had arisen in Broughty Ferry - “Wetherspoons did this when they were trying to acquire Jollys Hotel. Am sure they will just play it cool, and get the building for bargain basement price... history repeating itself!”

Jay Brechin added: “So disappointed! Spoons is always a good starting place for a night out, probably would result in people actually going out in Forfar rather than predrinking and then going to the Royal or out in Dundee.”

Meanwhile, there has been yet another twist in the saga with a suggestion that Angus Council leader Iain Gaul has reported Forfar member Colin Brown to the Standards Commission for Scotland.

Councillor Gaul told the Dispatch and Herald: “Any issues with the Standards Commission remain confidential until such time as they have been dealt with and reached some sort of conclusion.”

Councillor Brown said that, in the circumstances, he felt it appropriate to make no comment on the matter.