At a meeting of Full Council today (Thursday 18 March), elected members discussed the future of the former Lochside Leisure Centre and the land it sits upon in Forfar.
They unanimously agreed to defer a report on the outcome of an initial consultation with the people of Angus and the next steps concerning the future of the building and land (Report No 98/21).
Their decision followed an amendment tabled by Forfar Councillor Braden Davy and seconded by fellow Forfar Councillor Ian McLaren, to defer the report to the Council meeting on Thursday 13 May.
Councillor Davy’s amendment called for a report to be presented to that meeting, taking consideration of new accountancy procedures for Angus Council following the Court of Session’s ruling. Proceedings at the Outer and Inner House Court of Session ruled that, as the former Lochside Leisure Centre sat on Common Good land, the building was also a part of the Common Good.
The future report will allow for the full financial impact on Angus Council and the Forfar Common Good fund to be assessed before elected members decide on which option to take to a full consultation with the people of Angus. It will also provide an opportunity for any interested parties to be given access to the former Lochside Leisure Centre.
Earlier, elected members heard that the near two-month long public consultation (3 Dec 20 to 31 Jan 21), asking people to have their say on the future use of the building and land at Forfar Loch Country Park, had attracted 334 responses.
It presented five options and was supported by an information pack that contained engineering reports (including independent reports), council reports, options and details of court cases.
The results found that, of the 334 respondents –
- 4 (1.2%) favoured the status quo (no change)
- 77 (23.1%) favoured selling the former leisure centre and land
- 38 (11.4%) favoured leasing the former leisure centre
- 95 (28.4%) favoured a Community Asset Transfer for the building
- 120 (35.9% favoured retaining the parkland and demolishing the building
Councillors were also presented with an independent external review of the Council’s decision-making, prior to the recommendation to demolish the former leisure centre in Craig O’ Loch Road. The building was declared surplus to Council requirements in 2018.
Covering a seven-year period (between October 2013 and October 2020), the independent External Review (Report No 97/21) was carried out by international accounting, tax, audit, advisory and business services group Azets.
Azets concluded that –
- The decision by Angus Council on 7 February 2019 to approve demolition of Lochside Leisure Centre was not unreasonable.
- Three weaknesses were identified none of which were significant in nature.
- The main lesson to be learned is the importance of producing options appraisals to support decision-making. It was recommended that management develop formal guidance for the documentation of options appraisals and that documentation of options in Council and Committee papers be proportionate to the nature of the decision being made.
Azets confirmed the weaknesses they identified were similar in nature to those identified by the Council’s 2018 Internal Audit and the reviewers “echoed” the recommendations made at that time. An action plan has been agreed by Angus Council, building on work already undertaken in response to the 2018 internal audit and which addressed all recommendations made at that time.