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Forres Community Council has registered an objection to the Community Asset Transfer of Common Good land at Bogton to Transition Town Forres

By Garry McCartney

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The Community Garden and allotments at Bogton. Picture: Beth Taylor
The Community Garden and allotments at Bogton. Picture: Beth Taylor

FORRES Community Council (FCC) has officially objected to the proposed sale of Common Good land by Moray Council.

Members unanimously voted not to support the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) application of 1 Bogton Road by Transition Town Forres (TTF).

Moray Council is asking for opinion on the CAT which TTF claims will allow them to continue vital community work without the threat of eviction from their Environmental Education and Healthy Living Centre and Community Garden.

A FCC spokesperson said: “TTF’s business plan is unsustainable, evidenced by the number - 50 - of director/officer resignations over the last 10 years and their failure to ensure a surplus to cover basic operating costs without requirement to seek alternative funding. Common Good land is a potentially appreciative asset compared to buildings - for example Forres Town Hall and the Tolbooth were burdensome and depreciative under the control of Moray Council. There has been no explanation of what would happen to the land should TTF fail.”

She added: “TTF have had 10 years to provide an adequate income to cover the originally agreed condition of lease and failed (ie. after 10 years of subsidised rent, a commercial rent would be applied). The long-term income generated from commercial rent will benefit people living in the Royal Burgh longer. The rents paid are returned to the Common Good, which in turn provides grants for local organisations. The number of people directly benefitting from Common Good disbursements far outweighs the number of benefitting from the current TTF set-up. Finally, a single one-off purchase payment will not generate potential long-term income in the current market.”

Transition Town Forres’ Environmental Education and Healthy Living Centre regularly hosts a number of classes, groups and events.
Transition Town Forres’ Environmental Education and Healthy Living Centre regularly hosts a number of classes, groups and events.

TTF has run social and environmental projects from the site at Bogton since 2009. The group believes it has been priced out by rent which has risen from £3600 per year to to £13,200. A successful CAT would mean TTF would effectively be owners of the site, allowing the charity to further develop facilities.

The CAT process was extended earlier this year to allow time for Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to carry out a Social Value Impact Study. The report concludes that the total value of what is currently on offer at Transition Town Forres is £109,253.

TTF are disappointed FCC do not see the merit of the asset being transferred “to the community of Forres, which it serves”.

A spokesperson said: “The proposal to quadruple rent is a significant barrier to its future viability and the delivery of these vital services. An asset transfer would protect vital wellbeing, food and health services. TTF offers essential services, including growing food for the Blue Bus, repair cafés, allotments for residents and spaces for community events. If for whatever reason the project should cease to exist, the assets would be distributed amongst charities with similar aims and obligated to serve the people of Forres.We don’t believe the priority for the community should be increased commercial revenue, but rather the social value it delivers. Our primary concern remains providing after-school activities, allotments, social space for affordable classes, groups and events.”

The HIE study is available at https://tinyurl.com/yeysuph8. Comments can be left at https://online.moray.gov.uk/form/auto/cat_request_ext or via email address CAT@moray.gov.uk.

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