Friday, 11 July 2014

Council set to dispose of former library HQ

SNP councillors will this week consider a report that could see the former library headquarters in Ardrossan’s Princes Street gifted to a charity that works with children, young people and adults who have communication support needs as a result of deafness, blindness, sensory impairment, learning or physical disability.

Described as the ‘north wing’ of the building that also houses Ardrossan Library, a Council report lists the premises as having been vacant for around three years “with little evidence to suggest that an alternative use can easily be developed”.

As a result, North Ayrshire’s SNP Cabinet will be asked to agree a plan that would see the former offices handed over to Sense Scotland. The part of the building in question was valued in 2013 at £240,000. However, with little prospect of selling the property, and with annual repair and maintenance costs of around £45,000, it is expected councillors will back the move to allow Sense Scotland to take over the facility.

In a report to be considered at this week’s Cabinet meeting, Laura Friel, the Council’s Corporate Director (Finance and Corporate Support), indicates that Sense Scotland proposes to invest around £500,000 in the Ardrossan building, creating a facility called ‘Touchbase Ayrshire’, which would deliver a base for adult and children support services; provide therapy, art, music and sensory activities; create a base for outreach services within the North Ayrshire area; accommodate personal care suites; provide a sensory garden and after school care; with the potential for also creating a cyber cafĂ©.

Sense Scotland was formed as a charity in 1985, initially as a small group of families pressing for services for their children who were affected by deaf-blindness, many because of maternal rubella. The charity has since expanded to support thousands of disabled people and their families in projects and services throughout Scotland.

The transfer of a property at less than market value requires the Council to comply with the requirements of the ‘Disposal of Land by Local Authorities (Scotland) Regulations 2010’, part of which states a council must be satisfied that the use to which the building will be put must be reasonable and contribute to economic development or regeneration, health, social well-being or environmental well-being.

A ‘clawback’ provision will be included as part of the proposed transaction with the charity, which states that should Sense Scotland dispose of its interest for a purpose other than a day-care facility, or to an organisation that is not a registered charity, then the Council will be entitled to recover 50% of the market value of the property. This provision will remain in force for a period of 10 years from the date on which Sense Scotland enters the property. In addition, should Sense Scotland fail to commence with refurbishment works within 12 months of concluding missives, or fail to commence with service delivery within 24 months, the Council will have the right to re-acquire the property for £1.00.

Sense Scotland has indicated its proposed new facility will create 40 new jobs, with the intention being that many of the positions will be filled locally.

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