A Dundee charity’s bid to overturn a rejection of its offer to buy Wedderburn House has been thrown out.
Last year Yusuf Youth Initiative, which runs a number of community outreach projects in the city, put in a bid of £50,000 to buy the NHS Tayside property under a community asset transfer.
The process allows community groups to bid for land or buildings owned by public bodies that are underused or empty.
However, despite the property being on the market for £340,000 since early 2018, the health board rejected this bid and in April this year Yusuf Youth Initiative wrote to the Scottish Government asking for the decision to be overturned.
Now Aileen Campbell, minister for communities and local government, has written to the charity saying their appeal has been rejected over concerns about the risks involved and uncertainty over the group’s income.
“We built up these dreams and now that is just smashed to the ground”
Faisal Hussein, CEO of Yusuf Youth Initiative, said: “We are disappointed by this and it has not helped morale.
“There was a lot of excitement and we have young kids who are still fundraising for a new building and when this news came in they just dropped.
“I was expecting to get the keys of Wedderburn House because we had touched all bases.
“We built up these dreams and now that is just smashed to the ground.
“We have been working on this bid for the last three years and we were always advised to push onto the next step.
“All the staff were looking forward to a new beginning in 2021 and growing the organisation several times over.
“The amount of time this has taken has cost me tens of thousands and given us a false sense of hope.”
He added the group is still on the hunt for another building to move into: “We can’t move forward and grow as an organisation with the limited space we have in our current building.
“We currently have £65,000 raised for our building project and an additional £15,000 pledged for when we do get a building secured.
“We want to continue fundraising because we still need a new building, but morale has just hit the ground.”
Why was the appeal unsuccessful?
In its letter of rejection, written by Scottish Government reporter Alison Kirkwood, it said Yusuf Youth Initiative had given “clear and detailed” information on its organisation and said its proposals would benefit “economic development, regeneration, public health and social and environmental wellbeing and would reduce socioeconomic disadvantage”.
Her report also said NHS Tayside’s consideration of the charity’s bid was “difficult to follow” and said part of the health board’s assessment was “unclear”.
However Ms Kirkwood then went onto say the financial information provided raised some concerns and said there were uncertainties in Yusuf Youth Initiative’s income and expenditure assumptions and a lack of risk management.
In her report, she said: “Given the risks regarding the appellant’s ability to deliver the proposals and therefore realise the benefits, I consider that the strengths of the request would not outweigh the weaknesses.
“Considered overall, I find that the proposal would not represent best value because the areas where best value is demonstrated are outweighed by the concerns regarding the use of resources and financial sustainability.”
Charity claims the community asset transfer process is a “farce”
Mr Hussein has also criticised the handling of the group’s community asset transfer bid.
He said: “It is not just the face our bid was unsuccessful, it is the whole process.
“To me it seems the process was never intended to work.
“When the Scottish Government decided to develop a new community asset transfer, the idea behind it was to get public buildings that are underused or lying empty opened up to other organisations.
“But in our case we didn’t fit the bill and it didn’t happen in our favour.
“The report pretty much says ‘you are doing great work but the building is too big and you guys don’t have the resources to manage it’.
“We out a lot of time, effort and money into Wedderburn House and we made a strong case but the process has been a farce from the outset.
“The government doesn’t understand there are lives and people affected by it.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said: “We have been advised by Aileen Campbell MSP, cabinet secretary for communities and local government, that Scottish ministers have accepted the findings and recommendations of the reporter who has investigated the appeal by Yusuf Youth Initiative against the decision by NHS Tayside to refuse their community asset transfer request.
“The reporter has upheld the board’s decision to refuse the request and this has been formally accepted by Scottish ministers.
“We hope that Yusuf Youth Initiative will be successful in securing alternative premises that best meets their needs for the future.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government added: “A decision was reached following careful consideration of all the evidence presented, as part of our fair, thorough assessment process.
“We know Yusuf Youth Initiative is a valuable organisation and fully understand that their members will be disappointed at this decision.
“We hope that it does not discourage them from any future asset transfers.”