Scottish council submits compulsory purchase order for charity's land to build school

Aberdeenshire Council wants the seven and a half acres in Turriff so it can relocate Markethill Primary School; the British Heart Foundation says a previous offer did not reflect the land's market value

An artist's impression of the relocated school
An artist's impression of the relocated school

A Scottish council that wants to buy land from the British Heart Foundation to build a new school has asked the Scottish government to approve a compulsory purchase order to push the deal through.

Aberdeenshire Council wants to buy a plot of land of slightly more than seven and a half acres in the town of Turriff and build new premises to relocate Markethill Primary School. The land was donated to the charity in a will.

According to Stephen Morgan, head of legacy management at the BHF, a previous offer made by the council for the land did not reflect its market value. The charity did not disclose its valuation of the land and a spokeswoman for the council did not respond to Third Sector’s inquiry as to the offer it had made.

Morgan said the BHF was obliged by charity law to ensure that when any charitable assets were sold they achieved their full market value.

"We have been and are in continuing negotiations with the council and will continue to work with it on this matter," he said.

The council spokeswoman said: "Negotiations have been ongoing with the landowner and are continuing. However, to minimise any potential delays, a compulsory purchase order has been submitted to the Scottish government and this will determine the timescale of the programme." The order was submitted in September.

Sandy Duncan, an Aberdeenshire councillor representing the Scottish National Party, said the offer the council made was about 30 times that of the agricultural value of the land, which he said was £5,000 an acre – this would make the agricultural valuation about £38,000 and the council’s offer in excess of £1m. But the agricultural value of the land would be substantially greater than its value to a private developer.

Duncan said: "Getting the land was a windfall to the BHF, and I’m sure the benefactor would have appreciated it going to the community for a school. Negotiations continue, but shouldn’t have been necessary – it should have gone straight through."

Compulsory purchase orders allow public authorities to buy property without the owner’s permission, if there is a strong enough public interest case. These orders require ministerial approval.

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