BILLIONAIRE Greenock property developer Sandy Easdale has accused Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken of 'hypocrisy' over plans to enforce the sale of empty buildings. 

Mr Easdale has hit out at Councillor Aikten after he and his brother James were denied planning permission to convert the empty Watt Brothers store into a £20million boutique hotel. 

The former Rangers directors bought the building, which sits on the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Hope Street, in September 2020 and had planned to create a 125-bedroom hotel with retail space on the ground floor. 

However, their plans were rejected last September.


Greenock Telegraph: Proposal for former Watt Brothers storeProposal for former Watt Brothers store (Image: Supplied)

Sandy Easdale's comments come after our sister title The Herald reported owners of vacant buildings in the city centre could be forced to sell if they do not invest, repair or restore properties. 

Councillor Aitken said Compulsory Sales Orders (CSOs) were used in New York City and were a measure the Scottish Government was keen to explore. 

She said: "What we have got at the moment is buildings that we don't own and we have very little power in terms of being able to compel owners to do something.

"We don't own those buildings, we don't have legal rights to do anything with them.

"We use Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) much more now for empty homes but they can take a long, long time, they end up in court and they are expensive to use.

"One of the things we have been very keen to get for land and vacant building is Compulsory Sales Orders, which don't exist in law right now.

"It would be quite a radical approach and the Scottish Government is open to it.

"We would say to the owner of a building or a piece of land that has been neglected, that they are not investing in: either do something with it or sell it."

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Greenock Telegraph:

However, Mr Easdale has called Councillor Aitken a 'hypocrite' and says the council's planning department has 'blocked' their plans to transform the building. 

He said: "Aitken really has a brass neck. We have been blocked by the planning department from day one so the building is just sitting there empty. 

"The delays have meant we’ve had to spend £300,000 keeping it in a fit condition.

"She is a hypocrite by saying empty buildings must be bought up and developed eradicated yet my brother and I are willing to pour £20m into this development and once again give Glasgow a building it can be proud of."

He added: "If this is an example of how public investment is encouraged, cllr Aitken is living on a different planet from me, and her grasp of business and planning is non-existent.

"Ms Aitken should stick to her real job and make sure the bins are emptied and the streets cleaned although even that seems beyond her."  

A Glasgow City Council spokesperson said: "The Council is keen to support the repurposing of buildings throughout the city and particularly in the city centre and is invested in exploring how the technical challenges in bringing buildings back into new use can be overcome. 

"The application at the former Watt Brothers building was a case to be supported in principle, as it would achieve the welcome retention and reuse of an historic building.  

"However, how this is achieved must also balance protecting and enhancing the historic environment, along with other appropriate planning considerations designed to achieve appropriate new development.

"This particular application was refused as it was considered to be an unsympathetic addition, which would be harmful to the special architectural and historic character of the listed building.

"Councillor Aitken had no involvement in the process – and it would be a huge breach of the elected members’ code of conduct to try and direct or manipulate the decisions made by officers considering any application.

"Officials have, on more than one occasion, offered to meet with Mr Easdale to discuss potential options for the site."