ABERDEENSHIRE councillors are set to finally pull the plug on an ailing tourist attraction which was closed two years ago after lurching from one financial crisis to another.
The Archaeolink Prehistory Park at Oyne was hailed as a flagship attraction when it first opened its doors in 1997 as a trust-run centre.
But the council was forced to take control of the prehistory park in 2005 after spending £1.5 million of taxpayers’ money in a bid to keep the centre afloat as its visitor numbers, originally projected at 100,000 a year, plunged to just over 19,000.
The park finally closed its doors in February, 2011. And members of the council’s Garioch area committee are now being asked to declare the centre “surplus to requirements” so the site can be sold for an alternative use.
Stephen Archer, the council’s Director of Infrastructure Services, states in a report to the area committee that the former tourist attraction is still costing the council in the region of £30,000 a year in rates, insurance, repairs and security costs.
And he states: “It is proposed that Archaeolink be declared surplus to requirements. In accordance with the surplus property procedure the availability of the property will be circulated to other council services and if there is no internal interest in the property it will be circulated to the Public Sector Property Group. As part of the process, we are seeking to appoint an external surveyor to provide a valuation of the subjects.
“Following circulation, if there is no interest shown in the property, the council will be free to dispose of the property, whether that be an open market sale or disposal to a community group,.”
Mr Archer continues: “The Oyne Community Association has been consulted and has advised that the community has no objection and is eager to explore uses for the facility that will benefit the area.”
Archaeolink was aimed at charting the North east’s Stone Age, Pettish and Roman past, and featured a reconstructed Iron Age farm and a walk to the remains of an Iron Age enclosure and hut circle
Mr Archer states: “Archaeolink opened in 1997 as part of an initiative to enhance tourism in Aberdeenshire. The then council contributed in excess of £2million to the project and this was matched by European Commission funding.
“The subjects were leased to a trust whose purpose was to advance the education of the public in archaeological, prehistoric or historical objects. From the outset, visitor numbers never met projections and, consequently, since opening the council has supported the project with funding of £1.96million. In February, 2011, Aberdeenshire Council agreed to reduce funding for the visitors attraction budget and subsequently the facility closed.”
He adds: “Following a protracted Legal discussion, the lease was renounced by the trustees at the end of September 2012. In terms of the lease agreement and in discussion with Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, the council had to use its best endeavours to lease the premises to a tenant whose objectives were similar to the previous tenant and whose purposes were charitable at law. Following advertisement, and subsequent discussions with a number of interested parties, no such tenant has been identified.”