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Development Trust had a shaky AGM,
but nevertheless voted to buy Cultybraggan
Army Camp through Land Reform legislation
Teviot Scientific, Cultybraggan Farm, Comrie,
Filed 23 Aug 07
Decision day for the Comrie Development Trust
(CDT) as to whether or not to buy the 90 acre Cultybraggan Army
Camp and adjoining land was Monday 20th August. The vote was taken
at a time that coincided with the Trust's first AGM since being
incorporated, in July 2006, as a Company Limited by Guarantee. The
opportunity to purchase this substantial piece of land, that could
be a prime so-called "brown field site" (but does not
look like one), arose under Community Right to Buy legislation.
This is part of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, with some important
The course leading up to decision day has been
stormy: at least in the view of some. Others have regarded it as
a cake-walk, with monies from the public purse pouring in, and every
help being given through the Scottish Executive and Government Agencies
to fill in the forms in the manner favoured by the Scottish Executive
and by the Big Lottery Fund.
Generous funding has been provided from the public
purse to hire professional consultants for the purpose of devising
a business plan aimed at satisfying the criteria supposedly essential
for the success of the project. Namely,
"to provide a business plan that would
be both economically and environmentally sustainable and produce
benefit to the community"
Here, it should be explained, that for the purposes
of this article, the term "Public Purse" is taken to include
funds from the Big Lottery Fund as well as funds that are derived
through taxation. The Big Lottery is controlled in such a way that
the profits, after deducting the cost of prizes and reasonable running
costs, have to be spent on charitable causes that meet the required
standards laid down by government regulation.
Limitations of the site: extant and imposed
With poor road access, no sewerage (the sewerage
facilities previously used by the MOD having been condemned) and
no access to enable connection with the public sewerage system,
the potential value of the site was somewhat compromised. But these
problems had been made much worse by Historic Scotland, who placed
a Grade A listing preservation order on a substantial row of Nissan
huts down the middle of this ex World War 2 POW camp, after almost
2 years of what they claimed to be deliberation, but in reality
was incompetent delay.
The 90 acre camp and adjoining land had been obtained
by the MOD by compulsory purchase from the then owners of Cultybraggan
Farm in the early 1940's. Access to the now decommission sewage
plant next the River Ruchil ends with the sale of the site. That
explains why the Camp site is an isolated area of land in the middle
of the surrounding farm, apart from some limited public road access.
The Scottish Executive refused to offer back the
site to the farm at valuation, stating that the Land Reform (Scotland)
Act 2003 took preference.
When the MOD first indicated that they wished
to dispose of their Camp at Cultybraggan in 2004, there was considerable
interest from major companies in buying it on the open market. But
once Historic Scotland got involved, most of them backed off - not
even bothering to wait to see what they might come up with. The
potential loss to the taxpayer - who funds the MOD - was huge. It
is a remarkable fact that Historic Scotland does not take the economic
consequences of its decisions into account.
The process of buying the Camp for the Community
The process leading to the option for the Comrie
Community to purchase the site started in about September 2006.
So the relevant Comrie Committee has been at it for a full year.
A key early hurdle that had to be jumped was to
get the good people of Comrie to vote that they were in favour of
such a buy out.
This was done by asking them if, without any financial
commitment or other responsibilities, whether they would be in favour
"having an opportunity to have a say as
to what happens to Cultybraggan Army Camp."
That, of course, is not the same thing as asking
them if they were in favour of actually buying it. How could it
be, as they had no idea as to what the financial commitments of
their organisation might be, or what they really wanted to do with
the property if they acquired it.
Hiring of Consultants
Funds were soon flowing from the Big Lottery to
hire a team of consultants to help in the process.
At the time of awarding the contract it was made
clear to those tendering that the task was to come up with a report
which advised in an objective manner whether or not the village
of Comrie should proceed with a bid to buy the Camp, the fundamental
"that it could be run by the Community
in a manner that was sustainable both in terms of economics and
environment, and in a manner that would benefit the Community."
An extensive exercise run by the appointed Consultants
(DTZ in conjunction with architect firm HTA) gave the residents
of Comrie the chance to let their imaginations play free with ideas,
stipulating that such ideas at this stage need not have any economic
considerations. So, on a nice sunny Sunday, the Trust held an open
day. Lots of folk signed up that they would like
"an opportunity to have a say".
That, apparently, was enough to get through that
early Scottish Executive hurdle. Everyone was reassured that everything
was fine, because it was being overseen by an employee of the Community
Land Unit of Highland & Islands Enterprise (HIE) - another very
expensive quango of the Scottish Executive.
The HIE Community Land Unit (CLU) was established
by Highlands and Islands Enterprise in 1997. Its mission statement
"The aim of the team is to increase
the role of communities in the ownership and management of land
and land assets, and the sustainable management of these resources
for the benefit of the community. In the process of achieving
its aims and objectives, the team will encourage diversity and
experimentation in community land initiatives".
Valuation of the property
The next step was for the Scottish Executive to
appoint someone to value the property. The District Valuer duly
obliged by providing a figure of £350,000 for the lot. The
District Valuer is a Scottish Executive appointment.
Just how low this valuation was surprised both
the Trust and the seller (the MOD), as well as mostly everyone else.
Was this another helpful contribution by the Scottish Executive,
or was the Valuer right in his judgement in view of the constraints
on the property mentioned above?
The Comrie Development Trust Ltd
So now things were rolling along.
The Comrie Development Trust (CDT) was formed
out of the Comrie Development Committee in 2005. It got itself registered
in Companies House as a company limited by guarantee in July 2006.
The leading interim Board members included two whose day jobs were
directly involved in providing services to communities in terms
of their development through planning and getting funding. Their
services to CDT were, however, on an entirely voluntary basis.
Also on the interim Board was a senior army officer,
whom I thought at the time was retired. But the Army is clearly
part of the MOD who are the sellers. I was assured that there was
no conflict of interest. Throughout the time the interim Board has
been in place, I do not believe there has been a clear statement,
to which CDT members have had ready access, that declared the interests
of the interim Board members.
A working group of the CDT was formed to deal
specifically with the possible buy out of the Army Camp. I was on
that working group for a time, but when I indicated that perhaps
the Camp should have been offered back to the farm at valuation,
it was suggested that I had a conflict of interest. So I resigned
from the working group. Instead, I was classified by the CDT as
a "stakeholder" and heard very little from them since.
They were aware that I had serious concerns over whether it would
be possible to devise a business plan that could meet the necessary
criteria as described above.
Perhaps the CDT Board regarded me as the sort
of landowner who might want to asset strip the property, and sell
of serviced plots of land for housing, or some such despicable act.
Or, perhaps, that I might want to sell it on to some major commercial
enterprise who might bring unwelcome (in their view) investment
to the area and boost tourism in a significant way.
Communication between CDT and the residents of
The CDT now had to be seen to keep the people
of Comrie informed, and to get them to join their Trust. The whole
bureaucratic process was supposed to be based on taking account
of the views of the Local Community. Without sufficient signed up
members the Trust's credibility would be low.
No charge was involved in becoming a member. The
only commitment would be that a member would have to cough up £1
should the Trust go bust. The only criteria for membership was to
be over 18 years old, be a resident of Comrie and be on the voting
The CDT with the help of their Consultants published
a Community Plan Brief in March 2007. It contained a broad statement
of what the Community indicated were the sort of activities at the
Camp that they would most like to see, and the ones they would least
like to see, in the event of the Community buying it. The propaganda
was rife that ownership of the land was the only way the Community
would have control over what happened there. This of course completely
omitted to mention the strong planning controls, that certainly
can be influenced by what the local community wants, irrespective
of who owns the land. Unless, of course, a denial of that statement
is meant to imply that the community planners are corrupt. Surely
So with access to some £200,000 from the
Public Purse to spend on the best professional advice in the land
(of the Trust's own choosing) the next step was to produce the apparently
obligatory business plan that would meet the standards required
for both economic and environmental sustainability and also provide
benefit for the Community.
You would have thought that if there had been
a genuine case for this Community Buy Out that jumping this hurdle
would be simple task. But....
Murmurs of discontent were beginning to circulate.
Where was the debate with the residents of Comrie, rather than the
perpetual promulgation of hype. Hype was everywhere. The Press Releases
from the Trust Secretary failed to mention any comments of concern
about the viability of the project.
In reality, the serious constraints on the possible
uses of the property were obvious. Just how could it be possible
to draft a plausible plan that would stack up, especially if the
aspirations of the residents of Comrie were to be met?
Where was the money going to come from?
It transpired that the purchase price for the
property, £350,000, had to be met from Bank borrowings. Either
the CDT did not apply for the purchase cost to the Land Fund of
the Big Lottery, or they were not eligible for reasons that, as
a member of the CDT, I do not recall being told.
The bank loans, often described by the CDT Secretary
as "interest free", in fact incurred interest rates at
3% over base (a high rate) starting in 18 months for a loan of £200,000
and in 3 years for a further loan of £150,000. That would
mean that, at the present bank base rate of 5.75%, an applied interest
rate of 8.75%. Simple arithmetic shows that the amount of interest
that would be required to be paid, unless at least some of the loan
was repaid, was some £17,500 per year after 18 months rising
to some £30,000 per year after 3 years. That, by any standard,
is a substantial financial commitment. And base bank rates can change,
possibly upwards, as we have witnessed all too clearly this year.
So where was the money going to come from to meet
that obligation? That is why a business plan was so important. But
how could it match what was being asked of it?
This question was raised at a somewhat unsatisfactory
open meeting of the CDT on 25th June 2007. Perceptive members of
the gathering, especially those with some business experience, were
expressing doubts. But the style of the meeting did not encourage
open debate, but seemed designed to facilitate an emotional atmosphere
whereby owning the land was the thing, rather than knowing what
they wanted to do with it, and how the costs of running it would
be met. It almost seem to be encouraging the approach that somebody
else will pay for everything if we cannot make it work. That of
course was totally contrary to the original condition: a business
plan was required that would ensure both economic and environmental
sustainability while providing benefit to the community.
Indeed, one particularly perceptive member asked
"Are we expected to see the business plan
the week before the decision date and make a properly considered
decision on it?"
Surprisingly, the answer was
Also clearly raised by a Comrie resident at that
meeting was concern at the absence of a ready means of getting access
to the facts about the relative economics, clearer information about
any problems that were arising in terms of possible uses for the
site, etc. There was no adequate website where this information
could be stored and readily available to everybody, and which would
allow members to exchange views among themselves. In other words,
what the members wanted was sound information, and not just marketing
The next open meeting was scheduled for Monday
13th August. Indeed just one week before the decision date that
was declared to be immoveable. The consultants would produce their
business plan at that meeting, which would incorporate their economic
predictions. Efforts would be made to get a suitable website up
and running, albeit at this very late date.
Matters came to a head at the open CDT meeting
of Monday 13th August. There was still no business plan. There were
no cashflow predictions. The terms of the substantial loans from
the Tudor Trust were not made clear. The Consultants had no convincing
suggestions as to how they would be able to meet the basic running
costs, which they grossly underestimated. The theme from the Board
was essentially that
"it will all come right once we own the
There were suggestions that they could sell off
some of the land and its assets, such as an used cottage that had
been classified for years by the MOD as a 'stone tent'.
That seemed miles away from what we had been told
previously. But the hype continued:
"Owning land gives opportunity"
- missing out of course the bit about responsibility
"Owning the land is the only way we will
have control over what happens on it"
- missing out, yet again, mention of the rigorous
planning legislation which gives communities a strong say over what
happens on land, whoever owns it.
No mention either that commercial investment could
bring much prosperity to the area. The suggestion of the property
going on the open market was treated by the CDT officials with horror,
"the profits would be taken away to some
other place beyond our control"
A Comrie resident, who runs a nationally respected
architectural business in the village, stated that in his view the
business plan, such as it was,
"was based on a wing and a prayer; it was
a huge gamble; it was like buying a pup"
So, more detailed financial estimates and a business
plan were promised for the night of the decision, the following
Monday. This was to coincide with the first AGM of CDT Ltd. There
were hints that selling off plots of land for luxury housing was
But with all the well-funded professional expertise
available, the CDT Board of Directors would appear to have paid
little attention to their own Memorandum and Articles of Association
(M & A's), which have to be followed to comply with the Companies
Before the AGM could get underway, points relating
to proper procedure were raised that could well have made it inappropriate
for the AGM to continue. The CDT Board had been formally warned
of these concerns, but even then the Trust's solicitor in attendance
had a difficult time putting forward replies that were convincing.
The points made included concern about the absence
of any accounts. A condition of the Companies Act with regard to
the running of an AGM is that
"the annual accounts shall be considered"
Whether stating that the accounts have not been
completed and will be reported at a later date counts as consideration
was not clear. The auditors were not there. Was this enough to satisfy
the Companies Act and allow the AGM to proceed?
At the Monday 13th August meeting the Company
Secretary denied that the accounts had to be circulated to the membership
21 days before the AGM at which they would be considered. When the
law was quoted to him, he admitted that he was wrong, that he had
misled the meeting and that the accounts could therefore not be
presented at the AGM on 20 August.
Certainly, in comparison to all the AGMs I have
attended of various organisations, this Trust's solicitor had to
work the hardest to save the AGM from collapsing. I would have thought
that there might be a challenge through Companies House.
But the 200 or so Comrie residents who were there,
by no means all of whom had signed up as members of the Trust and
therefore unable to vote, showed signs of getting bored with these
tedious points of order, essential though they are.
Certainly it was a bad idea to hold the agm and
the crucial vote on the Camp on the same night. Previous minutes
of the CDT Board had suggested this, but in the event that warning
But matters got worse. After more hype from the
CDT chairperson, who is a part-time employee of Scottish Natural
Heritage (another expensive government quango that has a reputation
for misleading communities that it wants to influence), the consultants
presented what was promised to be their business plan, including
their economic predictions.
Essentially, there was no business plan, except
in so far as to sell off serviced plots of land for luxury housing
at inflated prices - precisely what the residents had earlier stated
was high in their list of things they specifically did not want.
It was claimed that each serviced plot of land
would be worth up to £100,000. And so would the "stone
tent". They could sell them off as the cashflow required.
There were no other credible sources of income
that would meet the running costs, let alone the looming bank interest
charges that would begin to take effect as soon as18 months after
purchase. The extremely sketchy cashflow predictions were presented
on a worse case scenario basis. There was no better case scenario
presented. The amount of monies mentioned included sums as high
as £500,000. Basic figures for highly predictable expenditure
were simply not there in any form of detail. It was 'back of an
But the gathering was again told that
"once we own the land it will be much easier
to get people to commit themselves".
Certainly, as a director of a limited company,
I would not dream of putting such a proposal to a bank with any
hope of success, but at considerable cost to my credibility. So
why should the public sector be so very different? Are they, above
others, allowed to be financially irresponsible?
But there seemed to be an even more fundamental
flaw in the Consultants' proposals. How come that the officially
appointed valuer had valued, only a few months previously, exactly
the same property so very differently, in the same knowledge of
the constraints indicated by Perth & Kinross Planning Department,
and in a land market that had not significantly improved during
that short interval? The Valuer and the Consultants could not both
be right. Either the Valuer got it wrong - for whatever reason -
or the Consultants were telling us porkies.
It was only revealed by questioning from the floor,
that the Bank would hold £200,000 security over the property,
and that Perth & Kinross Planning had only indicated their agreement
in terms of the use of the existing road access to the equivalent
of a total of 10 houses. Use over and above the equivalent of 10
houses would have to be deducted. That would mean fewer houses.
So what the Consultants were presenting was highly
misleading. They were suggesting that they could sell off serviced
plots of 6 - 8 houses and still be able to run things such as an
owl centre, sports facilities, polytunnels, allotments, light industry,
and even MOD leadership training courses, as well as a visitors
centre based on Historic Scotland's preserved Nissan huts. And,
of course, a house on site for a caretaker to improve security.
According to what Perth & Kinross Council Planners had indicated
in terms of currently available road access, that obviously did
not stack up.
It would seem that the occupiers of the luxury
houses are going to have an interesting time, if the raucous noise
of previous leadership courses at the Army Camp is anything to go
by, complemented by the owls who prefer to do their screeching at
Were all these activities going to have their
own septic tanks, or use some remarkable reed bed that allowed the
effluent water to soak away without damaging the neighbouring farm's
fields that lie at a lower level?
The Consultants were flying kites, but this time
they had apparently also lost the control strings.
In my view this amounted to a serious misrepresentation
in terms of presenting an objective assessment of a feasible business
plan. Remember the above description of the terms of their contract?
The proposed light industrial use was another
'no, no' as stated in the CDT's own planning brief of March 2007:
a publication that was no doubt used to gain the approval of the
Composting of waste, of unspecified nature, was
also put forward by the Consultants as a possible use of the site.
Seems to me that would also significantly add to the amount of road
traffic. Not only that, but the Consultants had been made aware,
as if they were not already, that there are major concerns at a
national level of having such composting facilities in the vicinity
of a livestock farm. No matter, such reservations were not given
a mention at the meeting. A previous statement said that the Consultants
were taking advice on the matter, without letting on what the concerns
were, and that planning permission may well be refused.
For the area of ground opposite the Camp, which
is currently used for grazing, the plan was to possibly use it for
some bio energy project, such as growing trees for wood chips to
stoke burners. Fine, but did they bother to look at the terrain?
They also suggested that it might be used for recreational purposes.
Oh yes? Again, did they bother to look at the terrain? Not a single
mention of letting it to a farmer for rough grazing, which is what
it is most obviously suited for. No doubt farming wouldn't pay enough,
or the responsibilities of meeting the rules that govern agricultural
land, whether in receipt of agricultural subsidies or not, would
be too onerous and expensive for the CDT Ltd. Possibly, they never
gave farming a thought, failing to appreciate that over generations
the local farmers have done much to maintain the surrounding environment
in good order.
One lady was trying to express what I took to
be her concern that the Tudor Fund, that was supplying the major
loans, was supposed to be to there to help deprived and disadvantaged
people, and that the residents of Comrie did not exactly fit that
criterion. However, somehow she never quite got the opportunity
to get her full message across. I wonder why. After all it was the
local minister who was in the chair.
There were stirring words from another speaker
from the floor, who did not seem to want to be concerned with such
pragmatic issues as basic management, costs, responsibilities and
But before the vote was taken there were other
important housekeeping matters to be attend to at this agm.
The Trust's Memorandum and Articles of Association
needed to be amended to comply with recent changes in Company Law.
These changes would allow CDT Ltd to be registered as a charity,
and so avoid substantial tax costs. Fine, but the Secretary was
reminded that, if CDT Ltd was registered as a charity, it would
have to abide by the ever stricter rules that regulated such organisations.
If they did not follow these rules, they would lose charitable status
and its benefits. The amendments were passed without objection.
If CDT gets registered as a charity before 7th
September they could straight way save some £11,000 on stamp
duty, the gathering was told. The CDT had better run a tighter ship
than they have allegedly done to date.
As in all previous open meetings of the CDT on
the subject of buying the Camp, there was totally inadequate time
given to properly debate this very important issue: probably the
most important issue over which the CDT may ever be asked to decide.
There was never a meeting when the case for purchase was balanced
with an opportunity for the case against to have a say.
Then there was the matter of getting the interim
Board changed into a proper Board.
Again, the CDT got its organisation of the meeting
sadly in a right mess. The CDT does not appoint a Board of self-nominated
individuals, as it had claimed in the leaflet it circulated before
the agm. Its members have to elect them. And that means the members
of CDT have to be told their credentials, and have an opportunity
to elect them or not. While there were 12 vacancies and just twelve
nominations it is only necessary for the Board to elect 5 members
for a competent Board to be established. But these key bits of information
came from a member attending the meeting: not from the Company Secretary.
So each person who had put themselves forward
had to say their piece. Which was indeed informative. Probably along
many others, I did not know who some of them were.
What was remarkable was the preponderance of those
who were either presently employed, or had retired from employment,
in the public sector. Many might think that this is hardly a good
criterion for being responsible for the prudent management of funds
within the constraints of a company limited by guarantee. let alone
a registered charity. Yet there was at least one who should be very
familiar with the regulations that govern such a company, charitable
or otherwise. That member had been on the interim Board and chaired
open meetings of the CDT, and was or had been on the Board of other
charitable organisations. So why had he not rung alarm bells over
the manner in which CDT Ltd was proposing to run its AGM?
It also seemed strange to me that one member of
the interim Board announced himself as a serving army officer. It
is alleged that he has, or recently has had, responsibilities in
relation to the MOD's camps in Scotland. I had previously verbally
expressed my concern to the CDT Secretary as to a possible conflict
of interest, but had been reassured that there was no conflict of
interest. And that the representative from HIE Community Land Unit
had vouched that all was well. But the Army is certainly part of
the MOD. The MOD, through their Defence Estates, are the sellers
of the property and should be looking for the best price they can
get, particularly as the property is owned by the taxpayer. Then
we heard the announcement that, miraculously, the MOD were prepared
to consider funding a leadership training facility at the Camp.
Surprising for a camp that had been classified as being redundant
to MOD needs, but may be they only need a bit of it. From the racket
that such MOD enterprises previously made, I would doubt if it would
fit well with luxury residential housing.
In the event all the candidate for the new Board
were individually elected with a cheer. But a lesson had been learned,
hopefully, that it is necessary to follow proper procedure if a
company is going to handle such large amounts of money, and be limited
in its liabilities by guarantee, and get the benefit of avoiding
tax through registering as a charity.
Perhaps some of those who had volunteered to be
members of the Board were beginning to realise the responsibilities
they had taken on, even on a voluntary basis. The Members of the
Board of a Company are only protected should the company go bust
if they have conducted themselves in a responsible manner. Unless
they have taken due care, they can be criminally liable for accidents,
The hard facts are that it makes no difference
whether a Board Member is acting in a purely voluntary capacity,
out of good will, or not. He or she carries the same responsibilities,
and is exposed to the same liabilities.
For the Chairperson and the Secretary of CDT Ltd
to bluff their way through, saying that they had been too busy to
attend to such administrative matters, is far from satisfactory.
They had funds to pay auditors and solicitors. Indeed, civil servants
from the Scottish Executive provided free advice and encouragement
at every stage for this politically driven programme.
The crucial vote
So, in the absence of any audited accounts and
no credible business plan, and after some more triumphal encouragement
from the Chairperson of the CDT that this will be
"blazing the trail as an example for the
whole of rural Scotland."
the meeting proceed to the crucial vote.
But even the voting system had to be adjusted,
as the Trust, on the advice of its attending solicitor, agreed that
the postal voting system that they had advertised did not comply
with their own M & As. The postal votes had to be discarded,
thus disenfranchising them from having a say. When warned of this
on the day of the meeting, frantic attempts had been made to arrange
for proxies to submit the postal vote forms without checking how
far in advance the M & As required proxy forms to be submitted,
It was agreed at the meeting that the postal votes
would be counted but not included in the actual vote, to see if
they would have made any difference.Two volunteers from the gathering
were asked for, who were not members of the Trust, to do the counting
of these postal votes, Interestingly, one of the selected non-member
volunteers was the Chairman of Comrie Community Council.
So all ballot papers were discarded and voting
by a show of hands adopted. Members of the CDT who had signed in
all got a blue card. They held it up according to the way they wished
A substantial, but unknown , number of members
present voted for buying the camp.
One member, me, voted against.
An indeterminate number abstained, some of them
on the grounds that to vote would mean that they had endorsed
the manner in which the meeting was been run.
So what now?
No doubt the obvious inability of the Board of
the CDT Trust to run a competent AGM will be brushed aside by the
authorities, both political and funding. The fact there has not
been proper debate will also, no doubt, be ignored. The fact that
the expressed wishes of the Local Community, such as not to have
residential housing and not to have industrial or commercial activities,
have patently not been met, will also be overlooked.
What in fact happened was that quite a small minority
of Comrie residents voted, almost unanimously, to own the Camp:
this in spite of the absence of any compete business plan or adequately
prepared cashflow predictions, or even evidence that CDT Ltd had
the ability to run a competent AGM.
All that this minority group of Comrie residents
wanted was to own the site, no matter what. All the charade of consultation
with the local people came to nothing. Those that voted didn't appear
to care, nor did they know, what to do with the Camp. Ownership
was everything, and at no cost to themselves or any responsibilities
or liabilities, apart from perhaps risking £1. One way or
another the Public Purse will pay for it all, in spite of all the
hype to the contrary.
The local word, after the vote, was that
"it was the incomers that did it."
So on the 7th September 2007 the Comrie Development
Trust Ltd (who represent some 15 - 20% of the residents of this
large affluent village) will own the 90 acres of Camp and adjoining
land. Unless they are heavily baled out by funds from the Public
Purse, it is very difficult to see how the project is going to work,
especially with such limited access regarding road and sewerage,
and the planning constraints placed in principle by Perth &
But as far as Cultybraggan Farm (which surrounds
the Camp) is concerned, it is only interested in coming to some
arrangement over these essential access matters provided the new
owner of the Camp is a credible business organisation. On the present
record, CDT LTd does not satisfy that basic condition. That is why,
as owner of the farm and a resident of Comrie, I voted against CDT
Ltd buying it under Community Right to Buy legislation.
It is interesting to recall that, once Historic
Scotland had eventually decided to place a Category A statutory
order on a substantial row of Nissan huts down the middle of the
site and a Community Right to Buy application had been registered,
the possible uses for the Camp were likely to be feasible were worked
out by myself on the back of an envelope in part of an afternoon.
Essentially, that list is no different from what DTZ/HTA Consultants
produced after months of deliberation and at huge cost.
Historic Scotland's activities and the Community
Right to Buy procedure has undoubtedly cost the taxpayer (through
lost revenue to the MOD) and other aspects of the Public Purse,
very dear. Possibly of the order of £millions.
For this Community ownership to succeed, continued
support, in one form or another, from the Public Purse or Charities
will be needed. Not only will the residents of Comrie have failed
to get the benefits from the substantial and stable investment that
a commercial enterprise could have brought had the site gone on
the open market, but many other charities, whose needs are genuinely
desperate, will also be the losers.
I don't suppose the owls would mind, they prefer
to do their screeching after dark.