A potted history of Castle Toward Estate: Part 1

This potted history only goes back as far as the mid 90s to the time of local government reorganisation. Argyll & Bute Council inherited Castle Toward Estate at that time and only avoided a challenge to that ownership by agreeing to the continuation of outdoor education in the premises. That agreement was reached with East Renfrewshire Council and Glasgow City Council. Two of the key players were Dr Malcolm Green and Dr Christopher Mason, at that time both councillors in Glasgow. Dr Mason, with the assistance of Dr Green, has written his summary account of what happened then. It’s a short but interesting read.

background to castle toward

In 2004, Actual Reality submitted a report to Glasgow City Council. Extracts from  this are  shown below, one of which summarises the extent of the business and its contribution to the local economy. It also highlights the inexplicable failure of Argyll & Bute Council to offer a 99 year lease despite having been given the green light to do that by the Scottish Government. Without that 99 year lease, Actual Reality were unable to raise the necessary funds to renovate the main building within the estate.

The question is why did the council refuse to give a 99 year lease? Was it to make life so difficult for Actual Reality that they would give up thereby allowing the council to sell the estate? To get the Scottish Government’s agreement to provide this 99 year lease, the council said the estate had nil value. Yes, zero, nothing, not a penny yet  they refused a recent offer of £850k from South Cowal Community Development Company and want £1.75m for it. Remember, they got it for nothing and promised to foster outdoor education.

From the report to Glasgow City Council on December 2004.

In May 2001, the management committee dissolved, on the understanding that Argyll & Bute Council would enter into a 99 year lease with the Actual Reality Learning and Leadership Trust. However, this arrangement did not materialise and the Centre has continued to operate with uncertainty over its future.

and

Despite these difficulties the Centre has provided outdoor learning, music and arts programmes for over 50,000 young people from all over Scotland since 1997. It is also a major contributor to the fragile economy of the Cowal peninsula. Employing over 50 people, it is within the top two per cent of employers operating in Argyll and the Isles Enterprise (AlE) area of operation and within the top six per cent within. Highland and Isles Enterprise (HIE) area and has generated more than £4.5m to the local economy.

In that same report the company said that in the 12 months to August 2004, 6,530 individuals had attended Castle Toward. It was, in short, a huge success for Cowal and Argyll & Bute as a whole. Why, then, would Argyll & Bute Council want to shut this operation down other than to flog it off for short term gain? But they have never actually managed to sell it off. The known offers that have been rejected were from Castle Toward Trust in 2008 (£500k), Actual Reality in 2011 (£650k) and South Cowal Community Development Company in 2014 (£850k). In between these dates they accepted an offer of over £2m from a holiday company who eventually pulled out. It was clear from that company’s balance sheet at the time of the agreed figure that they were so indebted nobody was likely to lend to them. Did anyone check them out or take a hefty deposit from them? Who knows?

More will follows of this sad tale of a wasted and wasting asset in beautiful South Cowal.

Cllr Walsh and his letter to Dunoon Observer on 24 April 2015

I wrote a letter to the Dunoon Observer on 20 April regarding some of the budget cuts proposed by Cllr Walsh. My letter stated: letter to Dunoon Observer 20 april 15

The editor let Cllr Walsh see my letter to allow him to reply and both letters were printed this weekend side by side. Cllr Walsh’s letter stated: letter from walsh observer april 15

Regrettably, his reply was materially inaccurate so this morning he received the following: reply to Cllr Walsh 26 april 15

I am not holding my breath !

UPDATE 28 APRIL 2015 

Cllr Walsh replied late yesterday to say he would not make my deadline of 0800 today and would reply this evening. This may well be too late for the local paper to remedy matters so I have today placed a public notice in this week’s Dunoon Observer to make it clear Cllr Walsh’s response last week was misleading and inaccurate.

UPDATE 29 APRIL 2015

Cllr Walsh did reply late yesterday and the correspondence is at the link below. I was also in touch with the Dunoon Observer who now plan to reflect my views in an article this week. As a result, and in agreement with them, I have removed the public notice referred to above.

Of course, Cllr Walsh has not remotely apologised. In fact, he has dug in even more trying to make out that his reply in last week’s paper was accurate, when it was patently not. Not for him the apology, the attempt to remedy matters, to make the peace. Oh no, he is still the same Cllr Walsh he always has been. Someone recently let me see an article from the Dunoon Observer in April 2000 which referred to the time when he was severely criticised by the Ombudsman for his involvement in a planning issue. The person who suffered as a result, a Mr R, wrote the following words in his wonderful letter on 8 April 2000:

“Councillor Walsh’s reaction is typical. Not for him remorse or statements of contrition.  ….his very essence, trickery.  …..one would expect Councillor Walsh to hang his head in shame, apologise to the electorate and depart the political scene. But then again that would be an act of a man of principle and less than towering arrogance.”

Now read below and see if the quote above remains valid today.

emails between myself and Cllr Walsh april 15

Argyll & Bute Council 16 April 15

Yesterday the Oban area committee killed off the proposed Oban Bay Marina project. There is no need to repeat an excellent article in For Argyll so find it at:

http://forargyll.com/2015/04/dead-in-the-water-oban-transit-marina/

As with the proposed Castle Toward buyout by the community, it seems the council’s views on what’s best for the local community are generally better than those emanating from the local community.  But that’s democracy, Argyll & Bute style.

Posted from WordPress for Android by Michael Breslin

Argyll & Bute Council 13 April 15

Cllr Dick (tator) Walsh has produced his first attempt at what needs to be done with the council budget over the next few years.

He and his administration were, for the most part, No voters in last year’s referendum but he doesn’t associate his No vote with the big budget problem we have in Argyll & Bute, a problem made worse here by the declining population.

He also fails to see the association between his pathetic leadership of the council over many years and the declining population, but that’s another story.

Here are 3 “highlights” from Walsh and his band of loyal supporters:

1.  Cut 20% off the adult care budget despite knowing it’s already under resourced and that the elderly population is increasing fast.

2.  He has tried to hide various things from view by saying they can’t be part of the cuts. One such item is the salaries and travel costs of councillors would you believe. This will allow Dick and his pals to continue to travel needlessly to and from Kilmory and to reward loyalty of votes with jobs, some undeserved.

3.  The communications spend is to be increased by, apparently, taking on an outside team of spin doctors !

Well done Cllr Walsh. You are consistent though in ruining Argyll & Bute.

Scottish Independence

With only weeks to go to the referendum, the unionists are playing dirty as might be expected. The unionist papers were full of nonsense over the currency but none of them reported the facts. They think we have lost the plot when all we have done is stick to policy which is to use the pound.

Last night, in the Burgh Hall Dunoon, Unison had organised a Q&A on independence with a panel comprising 2 from Yes and 2 from No. There was a smallish audience, many of them quite clearly hardline No folks, What was extraordinary was that a goodly number of these No people left to go back on the ferry to Gourock. There is clearly desperation in the No camp when imports from Inverclyde or beyond had to be called for. Alan Reid MSP, speaking for the No side, wound himself up to his usual frantic and rather rude self as the evening went on. Dave Stewart MSP, for No, was fine and showed Alan Reid up. Elaine Morrison from the Greens and Michael Russell MSP were clearly on top of their game in comparison with the No speakers and gave logical and well argued answers to each question.

Meanwhile, in St Mun’s Church Hall Dunoon, Joan MacAlpine MSP attended an excellent evening of debate and music. The number of young people present was great and the musical talents on display were excellent, including 2 people from New Zealand who had popped into the Yes Shop in Dunoon that afternoon.

Update on 2 September. See attached file. Yes or No

Update 20 September

The lies and fear induced by Bitter Together clearly worked since we got a No vote. Now we have to ensure that the optimism and hope that glued the Yes campaign together isn’t lost.

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