Comhairle to fight their corner in castle dispute

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Angus Campbell insists the Comhairle will ‘vigorously defend’ any legal action or complaint with regards to the Lews Castle redevelopment.

The Comhairle leader commented after it was confirmed that a local hotel group had lodged State Aids Complaints with the European Commission against the authority’s plans for the castle.

Councillor Campbell said: “We are confident in the processes and procedures regarding the Lews Castle Museum and Archive project, including the appointment of the operator partner.

‘‘The Comhairle took appropriate advice on State Aid issues.

“Any legal action or formal complaint will be vigorously defended and responded to by the Comhairle.”

“This is a flagship, generational project for the community of the Outer Hebrides which will create much needed jobs and benefit businesses throughout the area, increasing the tourism sector. The new Tourism Strategy highlights accommodation as a key strategic action, especially investment in the range and quality that meets expectations.

“The procurement of the private sector partner undertaken in 2012 was open and transparent.

“Despite registering his interest during the open tender period, Mr MacKenzie chose not to submit a tender although he could have done so.”

In a statement submiitted to the Stornoway Gazette Mr Kenneth Mackenzie confirmed Kenman Holdings Ltd, which is the holding company for Cala Hotels, has lodged complaints with the European Commission on the basis that the tender process adopted by the Council for the award of private sector operator was not genuinely competitive and was significantly non-compliant with applicable European laws.

Mr Mackenzie, who is Kenman’s managing director, explained his desire to have the matter ‘legally tested’ saying: “The Comhairle has stated that the procurement process undertaken was open and transparent. We disagree and wish to have this matter legally tested.

‘‘Our complaints are founded upon some 1500 pages of documentary evidence released by the Comhairle and Highlands and Islands Enterprise under Freedom of Information requests.

“Our action has the support of over 40 small local businesses who, while very supportive of the museum and ground floor renovation of the castle, are seriously concerned their businesses will be badly damaged by the subsidised operation of the accommodation proposed on the upper floors of the development.”