Common Good for Whom?
It is not unusual for councils to enter into arrangements with businesses. In a recent decision under s75(2) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1973, Aberdeenshire Council raised an application at Court seeking authority to sell ground in Banff forming part of the common good which had been used as a car park adjacent to Bremnerâ€™s Stores at Battery Green for a period of 30 years.
The statute states:
Where a local authority desire to dispose of land forming part of the common good with respect to which land a question arises as to the right of the authority to alienate, they may apply to the Court of Session or the sheriff to authorise them to dispose of the land, and the Court or sheriff may, if they think fit, authorise the authority to dispose of the land subject to such conditions, if any, as they may impose, and the authority shall be entitled to dispose of the land accordingly.
They had already entered into a contract agreeing to sell the ground to the department store for Â£10,000 on the condition that the application was awarded by the Court. The council had made provision that the Â£10,000 would be invested in a fund for the benefit of the common good. There was objection from townspeople to the application, and the Court supported that objection.
The Sheriff found that the loss of amenity of the car park could not be counterbalanced by having a sum of Â£10,000 available for investment within the common good fund. No opinion was given as to what figure might have swung the balance.