B-listed building owned by Perth and Kinross Council to go under the hammer

Council-owned flats in a Perthshire town with a Ukrainian population will be sold at auction.

Opposition councilors called for the vacant B-listed building to be used to house Ukrainian refugees.

Perth and Kinross Council’s property sub-committee sealed the building’s fate on Monday, February 28.

Cumberland Barracks – formerly known as Yeomanry Barracks – were built in Coupar Angus between 1745 and 1766.

The B-listed building – made of red rubble with white sandstone dressings – is currently sitting empty. PKC has been unable to find tenants for the five one-bedroomed flats and one bedsit contained within the historic building. The last property was vacated in October 2021.

At a housing and communities committee meeting on January 24 councillors voted for Cumberland Barracks to be put up for auction.

This week it went before PKC’s property sub-committee for further consideration.

A council report said since 2020 10 prospective tenants had all refused to take up an offer of a flat due to them being “too dark and small”.

The report added: “All six properties have very thick walls and small windows resulting in all flats having a dark interior which cannot be improved due to the listed status.

“The internal stairwell of the building is also dark, with hidden corners and areas, and despite being well lit, these create an unsafe appearance.”

At Monday’s meeting SNP councilor Grant Laing suggested the vacant flats be used to house Ukrainian refugees.

The Strathtay councilor said: “Perth and Kinross will obviously want to stand up and take the full share of refugees coming over and fleeing a war-zone.

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“I think it would be remiss of us as a local authority to dispose of this building at this time when it could be suitable for people coming across from Ukraine.”

PKC’s depute director of communities Clare Mailer said: “The council has a very good pro-active, supportive and welcoming response. I would absolutely assure you that it would continue to be the case.

“We heavily utilize the private sector and work very very closely with private sector landlords in terms of any kind of response and that would obviously continue to be the case.”

She added: “I do not anticipate the decision made by the committee today will impact the council’s response in any way.”

Ms Mailer said selling the building at auction was seen as the best option to “reduce legal delays and achieve near-market value”.

Council officers described maintenance of the historic building as “challenging and costly”. PKC recently spent £127,000 replacing the coping stones and re-coating the building’s exterior.

Cllr Laing tabled an amendment to defer selling the building. He cited the following reasons: it was the wrong time to sell; the Ukrainian crisis; PKC losing control over the building, and concern the cost of renovation would be prohibitive to any prospective purchaser.

Blairgowrie and Glens SNP councillor Tom McEwan seconded and said: “I’m aware there’s a Ukrainian populace within Coupar Angus and they are obviously worried about their families back in Ukraine. I do think this building would provide some capacity for the council to do its great work it does with refugees.

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“Obviously things have changed since the housing committee – with the Ukraine crisis – and I think we should be looking to hold onto this property to have it as an asset for housing people from Ukraine.”

Conservative convener Murray Lyle – who moved the motion to sell the building at auction – thanked councilors for their “heartfelt comments supporting our Ukrainian friends”. He said PKC had an “excellent record” of accommodating refugees within Perth and Kinross communities.

Labor Carse of Gowrie councillor Alasdair Bailey expressed concern a private landlord might “find it easier to put more bodies into this building to their detriment”.

The report pointed to a difference in the legislation and obligations for private landlords compared to social landlords “such as the rules on flat-sharing, level of rental charge and flexibility in tenancy duration”.

Officers added: “These differences could support a private landlord to find suitable tenants based on the employment opportunities in Coupar Angus.”

Cllr Bailey said: “I wouldn’t want to sell to someone who offers a lower standard of accommodation.”

Conservative Strathearn councilor Roz McCall seconded Cllr Lyle’s motion to sell the building.

Cllr McCall agreed with some of the issues raised by those supporting the amendment but added: “I would like to think all our tenants – whether they come from a war-torn area or living here – have a perfect standard of accommodation in Perth and Kinross .

“If our [prospective] tenants are saying these properties are sub-standard then as a council I think we should really be looking to make sure our standards are as high as possible.”

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Councilors voted to auction Cumberland Barracks by four votes to three.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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