Town centre funds storm

THE Angus Councillor at the centre of the controversy surrounding the loss of over £800,000 from the Towncentre Regeneration Fund has told the “Brechin Advertiser” that then local authority couldn’t have done any more (writes Steve Mitchell).

Speaking this week in the wake of the on-going fall out from the loss of the town centre cash, Montrose based Councillor David May claimed that both elected members and council officials team did “everything possible to get the deal through”.

Councillor May also said that he was still hopeful the deal could be resurrected.

“I have been working with various committees and across departments and a lot of work has taken place,” he commented.

“I was aware that when we started the proposals officials came up with were pretty ambitious, especially given the time frame in which we had to work.

“I think the difficulty was the nature of the projects and dealing with several properties and owners to cross the finish line.

“I would add, however, that I am deeply committed to seeing the town centre of Brechin regenerated, as it is in need of help.

“Like Bob Myles, I believed it was from this fund that we could best find a way forward to stimulate the Brechin economy in both the long and short terms.

“The Scottish Government had four town centre projects from Angus to look at and they chose the Brechin one, so presumably they saw this as a feasible proposition - despite the risks.

“I was involved with another project in Montrose and, while we were disappointed when it fell through, we did our utmost to support the Brechin bid once it was accepted.

“Because there were several properties on the go and the associated problems that go along with these, many of these problems couldn’t have been foreseen very early on.

“They became identified later and that slowed things down.”

Councillor May said there was great disappointment when the deal for Woolworths fell through.

“It was purchased from under our noses pretty much by a private developer. It seemed the ideal property, being so close, as it is, to the town centre.

“Staff in economic development, infrastructure services and senior members of staff at Angus Council were all working from the same sheet.

“They couldn’t have done more or worked harder.

Blame culture

“We live in a country and even locally where a blame culture exists, which I feel is wrong.

“We should be trying to work together to do these things. Flicks was our back-up proposal, and we had thought we had an agreement with the developer.

“I cannot praise the council’s staff highly enough in their efforts to contact him and arrange meetings with him. We certainly had the impression that this is going to go ahead.

“Bob Myles and Sanjay Samani, my Lib Dem candidate, haven’t given up hope that we can still strike a deal with the Scottish Government.

“Presumably they still have this money somewhere. For the good of Brechin, I am 100 per cent certain that we could do a lot of good with that money in the course of time, hopefully in the next few months if at all possible.”

Mr May concluded by explaining that the Scottish Government tried to bend over backwards by allowing an extension of time.

“I think they fully appreciated the difficulties of a project such as this, when you are working with much older properties and also with developers.

“When you are trying to persuade developers to sell property in an effort to develop the town centre that was never going to be easy.

“We are still hopeful that the Scottish Government will reconsider its position and make the monies available.

“At no time at all have I once considered my own role in this. I believe that all the councillors were kept informed through every step of the project, through the separately administered THI in Brechin, as far as I am aware.

“They were certainly kept abreast of what the position was and, to be honest, there is a difficulty when you are depending on a private developer and we were very frustrated we didn’t get the start we wanted to, because, as has been pointed, out negotiations with the developer were quite difficult.”