Proposed transfer of assets for former Macduff School before councilors

An asset transfer request for the former Fife Street School in Macduff, run by the local Men’s Shed group, is again expected to be determined by councilors.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Business Services Committee will assess the proposal, which has been recommended for refusal, at its meeting on Thursday.

It comes after the Banff and Buchan regional committee reviewed the plans in December and went against the agent’s recommendation agreeing in principle to support the transfer of assets. This decision means that the application will now have to come before business services.

The old Fife Street School in Macduff.

It was recommended to decline on the grounds that the information provided in the business case does not demonstrate that the proposal is sound or financially viable to enable Banff, Macduff and District Men’s Shed to manage and maintain the asset and provide a community hub.

The old school was built in the 1930s and is located at 108 Fife Street in Macduff.

After its primary school life, a tenancy was held by North East Scotland College (NESCol) which provided a variety of courses for people in the town and wider region.

NESCol vacated the property in 2019 and although discussions were held with another party, these ended without a lease agreement. The property came on the open market in 2020 for sale at offers above £125,000, or to let.

In April last year, the council received an offer for ownership of a commercial enterprise. This was the subject of an exempt document and the Banff and Buchan area committee decided against the officers’ recommendation and declined the offer, which was upheld by the business services committee.

In June, the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership approached the local authority about using the site as a facility for vaccinations, testing and associated services related to Covid-19, but it later withdrew interest .

The Banff, Macduff and District Men’s Shed was established in 2018 and the group first expressed interest in the building in March 2020. They filed the formal asset transfer application in August last year.

He wants to use it as a base for the group and as a community hub for local organizations that need space for short periods.

In the report to be presented to the Business Services Committee, it is stated: “The Banff and Buchan Area Committee did not support the officers’ recommendation as some members were not satisfied that all relevant information had been presented to the regional committee to allow them to fully determine the application.

“Information had been provided by officers at the Men’s Shed, which included a scope of work document. This followed an assessment of the building, carried out for the purposes of Aberdeenshire Council, which identified further work needed to the building.

“This was shared with the Men’s Shed emphasizing that this information had been collected for the purposes of Aberdeenshire Council and that Banff, Macduff and District Men’s Shed, as claimant, also needed to ascertain what might be involved in getting the building reused for their own purposes and related costs.

“This information has been provided solely to assist the group in deciding the suitability and financial viability of the property in relation to its business plan.

“The group was encouraged to include this information in a revised business plan and was offered an extension of time to enable it to do so. The group however decided not to consider or include the information in its business plan submission.”

The report also describes other reasons for denial, including lack of substantiation of the need for a community hub; income and expenses detailed in the business plan are not correlated; and the skill mix of members is not documented to demonstrate how they are transferred to the operation and management of the property or the operation of the community hub.

The report adds: “This report confirms the position as presented to the Banff and Buchan Regional Committee and reiterates that the lack of solid information in the business plan, as to current and future financial and operational planning, does not provide sufficient evidence to support the application.

“The Banff, Macduff and District Men’s Shed has not clearly demonstrated or demonstrated its ability to deliver and maintain this building as a community asset.”

If the committee decides to accept the agent’s recommendation and deny the application, the group will have the opportunity to appeal and this process will begin. If it decides to approve the transfer of assets, an offer to lease the property will be made to the group.

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