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Kinloch Castle sale row: Brexit millionaire pledges ‘compromise’ – but could renovations cost 10 times the £10 million estimate?

Kinloch Casatle. Image Jason Hedges/DC Thomson
Kinloch Casatle. Image Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

The millionaire businessman trying to buy Kinloch Castle in Rum says he will work “in a spirit of compromise” to find a way forward for the contested sale.

Jeremy Hosking’s bid for the rundown A-Listed landmark has been held up following the intervention of the Scottish Government.

Following an approach by the Isle of Rum Community Trust (IRCT), Lorna Slater, the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, stepped in to pause the sale.

She said the future of the castle is dependent on the support of the Rum community which has concerns about Mr Hosking’s plans.

What are the community’s concerns?

The trust has fears Mr Hosking would divert the village’s principal access route for privacy, effectively splitting it in two.

It says the community would be considerably prejudiced by any substantial rerouting of the road.

“It is an essential route for villagers.  The castle, and any business housed in it, should welcome its location at the heart of the village of Kinloch, not seek to hide away from it.”

The trust also says Mr Hosking wants to own Rum’s off-grid power supply, currently owned by NatureScot.

At the same time, the community says renovating the castle could cost 10 times the £10 million estimated.

IRCT, which owns Kinloch village, apart from the castle, has held talks with the Scottish Land Commission into possible next steps “to find realistic ways forward from the current log jam”.

Jeremy Hosking says he is willing to discuss the future of Kinloch Castle with government minister Lorna Slater

The community body says it discussed possible ways to fund expert advice and legal support “to help enable a rapid, realistic and positive way forward for the castle, for Rum and for the wider public”.

It said this could also provide a possible model for other communities to progress realistic land reform.

The trust said: “Ideally, with such support, IRCT would hope that a solution could be found for the castle site that would mean there should be no further costs to NatureScot budgets beyond the end of this financial year.

“With the speed of the process so far, however, this may prove unrealistic. But it is a positive current target.”

Renovation ‘could cost £100 million’

Discussions also included concerns about the cost of restoring the castle which could draw on public subsidies.

The community says it has been told renovating a building of that size on an island would likely cost nearer £100 million.

It says clarity is needed on the future of the castle, including demolishing the structure, and the use of valuable village land.

IRCT feels strongly that any sale should be of the castle only, with the grounds transferred to the community and areas leased to businesses.

The trust currently has a lease arrangement with fish farm buildings which it says works well with controls and safeguards on both sides.

The community on Rum has concerns over the purchase of Kinloch Castle Image Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

In talks with the land commission, IRCT reiterated the existing main village access route, which passes in front of the castle, should remain and be transferred into community ownership.

Similarly, the land on which the power and water supply buildings are housed should remain permanently in community control and not sold with the castle building.

The trust adds: “IRCT remain very positive that a way forward that works for all parties can be found and will continue to work with Scottish Government and the wider Rum community to progress this.”

A spokesman for Mr Hosking, who also recently bought Arisaig House for £2.8 million, said: “Jeremy Hosking welcomes the clarification from Minister Slater concerning the Scottish Government’s proposed sale of Kinloch Castle on the isle of Rum.

“He will continue to engage with all stakeholders in a spirit of compromise.

Potential buyer willing to discuss ‘most sensible way forward’

“He understands the reluctance of the community trust to sanction an alteration to its right of way over what originally was the castle’s private driveway.

“By the same token, the restored castle will be considerably prejudiced by a public motorised road running immediately past its front door.”

He adds: “Mr Hosking states he is willing to meet the minister at any convenient time to discuss the most sensible way forward, with the objective to save this Category-A listed building from further decay, and make it a key draw for future visitors to the beautiful island of Rum.”

Jeremy Hosking has recently bought Arisaig House

A IRCT spokesman said it fully supports sustainable business investment in Rum where it takes account of the needs and desires of the community.

“That the castle is in a state of decay is not as a result of community inaction.

“We welcome further discussions on the best route forward for the castle site that seeks to find the best social, economic and environmental outcomes, locally, nationally and for the planet.”

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