Statement from Midsteeple Quarter Team following second auction of High Street property in Dumfries

Auction Update: 117-119 High Street did not sell at the Glasgow Auction on March 19, 2019. Bidding started at £100,000. No bids were made and the lot was closed. Our board made the decision to register a bid at a fair price, based on what we knew the buildings to be worth. £100,000 was above that level. We expressed our intention to pay a fair price for the building to the current owners, but are none the wiser about what they plan to do next.

Our team and our community have been on a concentrated learning journey together in the two months since we learned of the first auction sale of 113-115 and 117-119 High Street. Following the second auction of 117-119 High St on March 19, we’d like to share something of what we have learned; our tactics for the most recent sale and our future strategy.

Our plan from the outset was to re-develop The Oven first, as a flagship for what the people of Dumfries could bring to their High Street. Whilst doing this, we aimed to use legislation to create the conditions for community ownership of the other properties in Midsteeple Quarter.

We are completely committed to our town centre becoming a community-led development which will lead to long-term returns for everyone in Dumfries. We are continuing to progress contacts with the owners of the buildings in the Midsteeple Quarter. This is what we were doing when the first auction landed on us out of the blue.

We saw the £1 reserve price as an opportunity and launched the campaign that so many people contributed to. An amazing consequence of the campaign was increased consciousness locally about the potential for our town centre and how the people of Dumfries could come together to create real change.

As a community, we’ve learned that when it comes to the commercial market, we cannot compete. We were comprehensively outbid in the first auction, and have attempted to negotiate a fair offer with the new owner and work with them through community empowerment legislation which would have resulted in them securing a sale at a fair market value. We have not received a reply.

Re-development of our flagship project at the Oven remains our core focus. Plans are progressing well and we’re excited to share an update with the people of our town soon.

We felt we had no place playing the Monopoly games of property speculators – certainly not with the hard-earned cash of local people and the other finances we would have needed. We have made a promise to the people of Dumfries and must remain committed to completing the Oven as planned.

So what now? We are busy getting all the right processes in place to register a Community Right to Buy on the High Street properties in Midsteeple Quarter – this will ensure that the properties cannot be sold again without offering the community first refusal. After everything that has happened, the whole community will be keeping a very close eye on empty High Street buildings and calling owners to account on behalf of the town.

In the meantime, we are pushing on full steam ahead with The Oven and with your help, will deliver something amazing for our town! We have been overwhelmed by the support shown by our local community and supporters from further afield – we wrote personally to everyone offering them their money back when we didn’t win the first auction. We were amazed and delighted that, without exception, people wished to leave their money in the project to be part of our work in delivering The Oven project for the town

#ReclaimTheHighStreet. Whits fer ye will no go past ye!