A major holiday company has been announced as the preferred bidder for the Castle Toward estate on the Cowal peninsula.
Seasons Holidays plc was chosen following a clear assessment of all four offers received.
Council leader Councillor Dick Walsh said that what Seasons Holidays was proposing would amount to one of the most significant leisure developments ever seen in Argyll and Bute, and would put the area firmly at the forefront of tourism development in Scotland.
“This plan has the potential to transform the economy of the local area, as well the wider region,” Councillor Walsh said.
“Initial estimates are that Seasons Holidays could create more than 200 jobs at the site, and commit some £20m to Castle Toward in the initial development phase.
“This is a company with a strong track record, which has been liaising with Scottish Development International, the Government agency for inward investment, for several years regarding possible investment opportunities in Scotland. I am very excited that they have chosen the Cowal peninsula for their latest project.”
Seasons Holidays plc plans to create a resort comprising a hotel, spa, conference facility and holiday lodges.
The company, which is based in Bristol, currently has six resorts in the UK – including at Brunston Castle in Ayrshire - and three in Europe.
Councillor Walsh said the bid submitted by Seasons Holidays plc scored exceptionally highly in terms of economic development potential during the assessment process, both in terms of direct benefits such as local employment and recruitment opportunities, salaries and investment and also indirect benefits such as the purchasing of local goods and services and tourist spending in the area.
“The potential economic development prospects of each bid were given additional weight over other criteria,” he added.
“It is of paramount importance to the council that the sale of Castle Toward triggers a new phase of sustainable economic development in the area, and I am confident that the Seasons Holidays bid will deliver in this respect.”
Castle Toward was marketed for sale for offers over £2.25million. The council received four offers by the closing date, with the bid from Seasons Holidays plc representing both the highest-scoring in terms of economic development as well as the highest offer in purely financial terms.
The proposal is conditional on planning permission being granted.
Each party which requested particulars of the property while it was on the market was given a planning and development brief. This noted that the Castle Toward site is located within a Potential Development Area designated for mixed use development (tourism, education, leisure, housing, business), and also set out the development constraints linked to the property’s built heritage designations including its inclusion as a garden and designed landscape of national importance.
Castle Toward is currently occupied by Actual Reality Learning and Leadership Ltd, which provides outdoor education activities both there and at Ardentinny near Dunoon, which is also owned by the council.
The company does not pay rent for either property, and remains in occupation with the consent of the council.
The Executive today agreed to look at ways in which Actual Reality can continue to be supported in providing outdoor education services, with particular regard to Ardentinny.