Property sale could force Falkirk firm to quit

Katrena Hawkins and Robert Sniegon of Quality Masonry Services
Katrena Hawkins and Robert Sniegon of Quality Masonry Services

Stonemasons believe Falkirk Council is making a grave error selling off property.

Family-run Quality Masonry Services has warned it may have to leave the district – with the loss of 15 jobs – if the deal is given the go-ahead.

Brother and sister Robert Sniegon and Katrena Hawkins have run the business in Dalderse Avenue, Falkirk, for the last 19 years.

They have rented two units and a yard from the local authority, as well as purchasing the workshop behind where all their skilled work is carried out.

Earlier this year, the council put the property up for sale and the sitting tenants put in “an above asking price offer”, according to Katrena.

But last week officials revealed they had been outbid and, if the sale is agreed when it goes to the policy and resources committee next month, they will have a new landlord.

Katrena said: “Obviously, we are very concerned and cannot believe that the council is acting in this way. Our concern is that if we don’t get on with the new landlord we may lose the access through the yard to our workshop which would cause us lots of problems.

“We also have a shop in Stirling and there the council came to us with the opportunity to buy the property at the market value. Surely, Falkirk Council should be treating businesses a lot better.

“Over the years, we’ve done everything by the book. We’ve trained people, given them jobs and managed to keep our business going through the recession.”

Robert added: “We’ve spent almost £40,000 doing up the yard, paying to get rid of about 100 tonnes of rubbish, putting in monoblocking and replacing the fence.”

Katrena added that eight years ago the council did give them the option to buy, but they weren’t in a financial position to purchase at that time. She said: “We’ve asked them since then about selling to us, but until now they weren’t on the market.”

Falkirk Council had advertised the two units used by Quality Masonry Services at offers over £75,000 and the yard at over £22,000. The three other units, currently empty, were for sale at £105,000.

The firm has been told that a single offer has been made for all the properties.

Councillor David Alexander said the move was “bizarre” and hopes that councillors will reject the officials’ recommendation to sell to another party.

He said: “They appear to be on a mission to get in as much money as they can, no matter the implications for local businesses. We should be supporting sitting tenants and offering them the properties at market value.

“I’m disgusted at this attitude that appears to be forcing local businesses out of the area. Hopefully, the administration will look seriously at the affect this will have and reconsider.”

Pete Reid, the council’s strategic projects manager, said the sale had followed strict guidelines and offers will be subject to committee approval prior to any offers being accepted.

He said: “In line with Scots Law, the tenant’s current occupancy and operations are protected by the existing lease agreement which remains in place and would not be affected by any change of landlord.

“This disposal forms part of a larger sale of identified council commercial assets being sold as part of the Portfolio Management Plan, which reinvests receipts received into a development programme of new commercial premises across the district, for example, the new industrial units at Central Park, Larbert.”