By Jenny Rush
Published on Monday 21 March 2011 12:25
A COUNCIL-run caravan park in Stonehaven could be sold to a commercial operator if no community body steps forward to take control, a report before councillors advises.
The Queen Elizabeth Caravan Park, and many other parks across Aberdeenshire, faces being sold off if there is no interest from community groups in taking over its running from the local authority.
As part of a programme of cuts across service areas, councillors on Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure services committee will be asked today (Thursday) to approve the report, which states that the local authority should hand over the running of the parks to “new operators” by the autumn.
The report sets out a timescale for the process, with October being touted as the latest deadline by which long term lease agreements should be finalised with community bodies.
Officers say this will give the new management team time to prepare for the 2012 season.
Iain Gabriel, Director of Infrastructure Services, said: “While it may be possible to sell the majority of the sites, the work done to date suggests that most appropriate solution would be to offer the sites on a long term lease basis, for the purposes of operating a caravan park.
“Work will be required on the formulation of an appropriate lease structure. This will require transferring an appropriate amount of “risk” to the new operator, while retaining a degree of control to ensure that the council’s assets are protected in the longer term.
“Given the importance of the caravan parks to local communities, it has been assumed that the most advantageous arrangement is for some sort of community enterprise or trust to operate the caravan parks, rather than a “for profit” organisation.”
He added: “Should there be parks where there is no community enterprise interest or agreement is not reached, it will be necessary to consider the option of offering the parks for lease or sale on the open market.”
The report also states that there is a registered interest from two private parties who would be prepared to consider operating some or all the parks in the region on a commercial basis.
The Queen Elizabeth Caravan Park is situated on Common Good land and would therefore require a sheriff to issue a Common Good Order before it can be considered for sale or lease.
Secretary of the Stonehaven Town Partnership David Fleming said: “The fact that this land belongs to the Common Good Fund means that it is for the benefit of the people of Stonehaven in perpetuity. Whatever happens we need to maintain that.”
Meanwhile, the future of the town’s Tolbooth Museum remains unclear, although a spokesman for the council said that a reduction in the number of museums currently operated by the local authority is likely.
He said: “As part of the strategic review we are examining how effective our various museums are. One outcome of the review is likely to be a reduction in the number of museums we currently operate but no decisions have been made yet on the future of particular facilities.
“By reducing the number of small museums that are attracting limited numbers of visitors we would be able to free up some resources for improving outreach services and enabling more people to see and understand more about the artefacts that we have.
“We will, however, still need to retain our most successful museum buildings. A report on the strategic review of museums will be presented to councillors in future and until then no decision will be taken on the future of individual museums.”