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Old Moffat inn owners approached in community buyout bid

Moffat Community Council are the latest group to launch a campaign to save the Mercury Motor Inn, which has been empty since 1999

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By Euan Maxwell
Moffat
Old Moffat inn owners approached in community buyout bid
MERCURY CONCERN . . . members of Moffat Community Council outside the old hotel. Left to right: Jonathon Cosens, Alan Davidson, David Booth, Leys Geddes, Bob Smith

THE first steps have been taken towards regenerating a derelict town centre hotel in Moffat.

After sitting idle for more than 20 years, the Mercury Motor Inn could be reclaimed by townsfolk in a new bid being prepared by the community council.

Since closing in 1999, a string of local campaigns have failed to see the eyesore Inn demolished.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM Group), which owns the site, said in 2014 it was working with the council and local community “on plans to redevelop the former hotel”.

The following year, a plan to tranform the long empty Motor Inn into a state-of the-art training centre was put forward by Chefs in Scotland.

However, requests submitted by the Moffat-based recruitment agency to take over the land were never answered by EWM.

Six years on, the property remains boarded up and dilapidated.

But a last-ditch attempt being made by Moffat and District Community Council (MDCC) could bring that to an end – and members have been discussing the possibility of a community buyout.

Furthermore, they have written to agents working on behalf of EWM Properties saying they want to purchase the entire site.

A successful community ownership bid would entail extensive planning, fundraising and consultation with local residents.

As part of the first steps being taken, MDCC member Liam O’Neill was tasked with investigating how a compulsory purchase order on the Mercury could be submitted.

Reporting back, Mr O’Neill said there are “a number of hoops that have to be jumped through”.

“It’s not an easy process, you have to be determined,” he told the community council.

He explained that a community interest company needs to be set-up to take the project forward, with the overall decision falling to Scottish Government ministers, who require detailed redevelopment plans – and evidence of significant support for proposals in the community.

Mr O’Neill added the bid would have to be backed by a majority in a public vote in which at least half Moffat’s residents participate to be successful.

He described this as “one of the more difficult things”.

“It’s not so much if people will agree – it’s getting the 50 per cent to actually show their hands on this,” he said.

He added that showing intent to buy the property isn’t enough and stressed the need for a plan detailing what would take the Mercury’s place once purchased and demolished.

“If you are going to take this forward as a community buyout, you also have to submit your proposals for what you’re going to do with the land and they have to be fairly detailed proposals,” he said.

“You’re talking a minimum of 22 months to take this forward and that’s with a willing participant. There are various stages where objections can be put in by either sides to what the ministers are proposing to agree.”

Community council chairman Leys Geddes said regenerating the site is a local issue “almost everyone is agrees upon”.

However, he added: “There isn’t any agreement on how it should be changed or what it should be changed into.”

Meanwhile, EWM is expected to make an announcement regarding the Mercury Motor Inn early next year.

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