At a quiet Community Council meeting, with only three members of the public in attendance, Aidan Docherty, Head of Centre, announced that Actual Reality had bought the village outdoor centre from Argyll and Bute Council, with the deal apparently closing this Thursday, 7th February, 2013.
The purchase includes the slipway, the listed building ‘Old Ferry House’ at the slipway entrance, the outdoor centre itself, including the two ‘cottages’ together with the grounds which apparently extend to 6.714 acres (Title Disposition July 1968).
Aidan introduced Richard Miller, Actual Reality’s Finance Officer and invited any questions or expressions of concern regarding the negotiation and purchase of the centre either at the meeting or at any time in the future. He stressed the positive impact of this acquisition, highlighting the fact that the centre is approaching its 40th anniversary and that Actual Reality, which will soon become The Ardentinny Centre Trust, plans to continue and extend its work over many more years to come.
Another positive cited was that 30-32 jobs would be secure now that the company has the security of owning its premises and he stressed that his priority always has and always will be to recruit from the local community and that they also take positive steps to use local suppliers even when cheaper supplies may be available from elsewhere.
Councillor Marshall pointed out that the relationship between the centre and the community had contracted somewhat over the past 15 years but that this was probably due to the fact that there were very few young people currently living in the village. Richard Miller suggested that they should perhaps look at ways in which the older population could take advantage of the centre.
While reaction to the news was generally positive, there were some expressions of concern.The first of which was regarding public access to and use of the slipway. Aidan assured those present that they had made an undertaking to the Council that nothing would change with regards to use of the slipway, with the proviso that anyone wishing to use it should liaise with them. He stressed that it was not only their wish but their duty, as an RYA Training Centre, to promote safe use of the sea.
Councillor Bruce Marshall and others felt that while it was encouraging that Actual Reality had made that commitment regarding slipway use, there was still concern about the situation should it ever be sold on. Therefore, they were asked if it were possible to draw up some legal proviso whereby the slipway and Ferry House would return to the community, should Actual Reality cease or change its operations there. Richard Miller said that he could see no problem in having some sort of restrictive covenant whereby, should Actual Reality become insolvent, the slipway would return to Ardentinny Community Council and he agreed to take this issue to their Board.
In a similar vein, Aidan said that local use of the centre grounds would also remain unchanged. For example, members of the community would still be welcome to walk around, with the understood proviso that, should the centre or any of its staff have any doubts about anyone on the premises, they would be approached and asked for clarification. This, he explained, fell under their duty of care to the children and other users of the centre.
Richard Miller explained that Argyll and Bute Council had had concerns about the inclusion of the two cottages in the sale which Actual Reality regard as necessary staff accommodation. Therefore, as a disincentive to the Trust selling them on as private houses, it had been agreed that the proceeds of any such sale would go back to Argyll and Bute Council. This prompted questioning as to where the proceeds would go from the sale of any of the rest of the centre property and the meeting was informed that it would be sold on the open market with proceeds going to the company. However, Richard Miller did stress that the company was in it for the long term.
Aidan concluded by saying that they would be having an Open Day for the Community and also a celebration for the Centre’s 40th anniversary where they hoped to invite as many as possible previous employees to attend. He also promised to keep the Community Council and the community informed of all progress with regards to the centre.