Coun­cil to take £90k hit in of­fload­ing build­ing

MON­TROSE: Home­less unit to be sold for al­most half its orig­i­nal ask­ing price

The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and The Mearns Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Gra­ham brown

Coun­cil­lors have agreed to take a six-fig­ure hit on a town cen­tre An­gus home­less unit af­ter ap­prov­ing a deal to off­load the build­ing for just £110,000.

Since be­ing rav­aged by fire in 2007, al­most half a mil­lion pounds has been spent on re­fur­bish­ing and main­tain­ing the 11-bed­room build­ing in Queens Close, Mon­trose.

It has not had a sin­gle oc­cu­pant since the blaze af­ter rule changes meant the au­thor­ity could not ob­tain a house in mul­ti­ple oc­cu­pancy li­cence. Two years ago it was put up for sale with a £200,000 price tag and af­ter lit­tle in­ter­est coun­cil­lors have agreed to take a £110k of­fer now on the ta­ble.

Mon­trose coun­cil­lor Bill Duff has de­manded a full post mortem re­port on what he branded a “huge waste” of pub­lic money.

“When the an­nals of An­gus Coun­cil are writ­ten, the Mon­trose home­less unit will not be one of the high­lights,” he said.

An­gus Coun­cil has taken a huge fi­nan­cial hit on for­mer home­less ac­com­mo­da­tion in Mon­trose af­ter agree­ing a £110,000 deal to off­load the four-storey build­ing.

The au­thor­ity has de­cided to cut its losses af­ter spend­ing al­most half a mil­lion pounds on the prop­erty, which was rav­aged by fire a decade ago.

The 11-bed­sit Queens Close fa­cil­ity closed af­ter a blaze in 2007 and has not been oc­cu­pied for a sin­gle night since it was re­fur­bished at a cost of £355,000.

A fur­ther £100,000-plus has been laid out on main­tain­ing and heat­ing the empty unit.

The coun­cil was un­able to se­cure a HMO (house in mul­ti­ple oc­cu­pa­tion) li­cence for the prop­erty and two years ago it was put on the mar­ket for of­fers over £200,000.

Yes­ter­day, com­mu­ni­ties com­mit­tee mem­bers unan­i­mously agreed to ac­cept the best of­fer of £110,000, with one lo­cal coun­cil­lor de­mand­ing a full post­mortem re­port on what he branded a “sorry story” for the cash-strapped au­thor­ity.

The £355,000 re­fur­bish­ment pro­gramme was ap­proved a year af­ter the fire and in­cluded ad­di­tional en-suite fa­cil­i­ties, a new heat­ing sys­tem, a £25,000 sprin­kler sys­tem and £21,500 door en­try sys­tem.

“The pub­lic, who are suf­fer­ing from cuts we are hav­ing to make as a coun­cil, are rightly fu­ri­ous at this episode and the waste of pub­lic money. BILL DUFF

How­ever, changes to HMO leg­is­la­tion meant the prop­erty, which has four com­mu­nal kitchens, a laun­dry, stor­age rooms and an at­tic ca­pa­ble of con­tain­ing a three-bed­room flat, was no longer le­gal and an of­fer to a hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tion to take it on was re­jected.

A free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest later re­vealed a fur­ther £106,000 had been spent on main­tain­ing the build­ing – in­clud­ing £38,500 on fuel costs alone.

One for­mer staff mem­ber at the unit branded the saga a “dis­grace” and Mon­trose coun­cil­lor and com­mit­tee mem­ber Bill Duff said he sym­pa­thised with An­gus res­i­dents who would view the han­dling of the project as a waste of pub­lic money.

“When the an­nals of An­gus Coun­cil are writ­ten, the saga of Mon­trose home­less unit will not be one of the high­lights,” said Mr Duff.

“I’m not in­tend­ing to get in­volved in the pol­i­tics of what hap­pened – this dis­as­ter has spread over three ad­min­is­tra­tions.

“I be­lieve we should take the of­fer, I am firmly in favour of tak­ing the bird in the hand,” he said.

He con­tin­ued: “The res­i­dents of Queens Close will, I’m sure, be pleased at this ac­tion.

“We’ve wasted a huge amount of coun­cil money on this project since the fire in 2007.

“The pub­lic, who are suf­fer­ing from cuts we are hav­ing to make as a coun­cil, are rightly fu­ri­ous at this episode and the waste of pub­lic money.

“I feel we must get a re­port that cat­a­logues the de­ci­sions taken so we can fully un­der­stand this sorry story – that’s the least the pub­lic de­serves,” added Mr Duff.

gbrown@the­courier.co.uk

Pic­ture: Gareth Jen­nings.

The for­mer home­less ac­com­mo­da­tion in Queens Court, Mon­trose, which the coun­cil has off­loaded for £110,000 – de­spite spend­ing more than £350,000 re­fur­bish­ing it.

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