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April 5, 2017

Community asset blackmail

The asset transfer provisions of the Community Empowerment Act have often been described as a double edged sword. A new opportunity for communities to acquire public assets but an equal opportunity for public bodies to offload some real duds. But there’s another dimension to this which seems tantamount to a form of blackmail.  When a local authority threatens to dispose of assets that it knows full well are crucial to the local economy, it is in effect forcing the community to step in. That’s what seems to have happened on Arran.


Martin Williams, The Herald

RESIDENTS are joining forces to save nearly half of the public toilets on the islands of Arran that are faced with closure.

Talks are at an advanced stage to gift the rundown public loos to the islanders who created a stink over their imminent demise, and are looking to take over their operation.

It comes after North Ayrshire Council announced it was to close all Arran’s nine public loos to save £35,000 a year.

But a campaign was launched to save them, as they are seen as vital to a holiday island.

Some of them were understood to have been given a stay of execution for a year to allow community groups to buy and run them.

If an agreement goes through, four of the nine public conveniences would become owned by islanders and run by volunteers.

Bill Calderwood, chairman of Arran Community Council there were positive discussions and added: “It’s part of this making sure that Arran is seen as a welcoming and a good destination.

“It’s also a good thing for health and safety.

“That’s the other thing – there is a requirement on councils to provide dog facilities but not for humans.

“It’s a bit ironic for a tourist island to be faced with that.”

Under a Community Asset Transfer scheme, ownership of the public toilets at Kilmory, Whiting Bay, Sandbraes and Glen Sannox could pass to local organisations.

Campaigners created a film to help the bid to save the toilets

Craig Hatton, executive director of place at North Ayrshire Council said: “In terms of toilets we really value these facilities but we have a number of competing demands.

“But we’re hoping that in the longer term that most or all of these facilities will be transferred through community take-overs to remain open.”

It does, however mean that the rest of the public toilets will close.