MP hits out at sale of historic house

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East Dunbartonshire MP John Nicolson has urged Historic Environment Scotland to intervene to protect the historic Huntershill House in Bishopbriggs.

He has also accused East Dunbartonshire Council of selling off the building, which was once home to the father of democracy Thomas Muir, for a “paltry sum.” Mr Nicolson claims the council only made a “token effort” at marketing the listed Georgian building effectively.

It is now in a state of disrepair and will be sold to a developer subject to council planning permission and approval by Historic Environment Scotland.

The SNP politician has now written to the council to protest against the development plans for the building.

The local MP said: “Huntershill House is significant not just for its architectural merit but also as the former home of Thomas Muir whose 250th anniversary we celebrated just last year.

“The price agreed for the house is a paltry sum (around £140,000 including all the land) after only a token effort at marketing it effectively. The sale appeared in the local press when a house of such historic significance would surely merit national publicity.

“I was told that the low price was accepted by the Council because the purchaser planned an extensive and expensive restoration of the historic fabric – something we now know to be untrue.

“We need to go back to the drawing board with this building. It needs to be surveyed, restoration plans drawn up, and if it is to be sold, a proper marketing stratagem put in place.

“Ideally, the building should be sold with a deed of covenant in place which would protect it for future generations. We can, and must do better.”

East Dunbartonshire Council have owned the building since the 1960s.

A spokesperson for Mr Nicolson said the marketing and provisional sale of Huntershill House predated Mr Nicolson’s election last May.

She added: “He has since attempted on several occasions to gain entry for officials from the Spitalfields Historic Buildings’ Trust which has offered to visit the house and carry out a survey and restoration schedule on a pro bono basis.

“The Trust has a long and distinguished track record of restoring Georgian buildings which have fallen into decay. However, East Dunbartonshire Council officials have been unable to schedule any visit for Trust officials.”

Based at Huntershill House in Bishopbriggs, Thomas Muir was an 18th century political reformer. He championed universal suffrage and established parliamentary reform societies throughout Scotland, promoting votes for all.

In 1793, as the French Revolution was in full force, he was tried and found guilty of sedition. Transported to Botany Bay to serve his 14 year sentence, he later escaped the penal colony and made his way to France.

He settled in France and died there in 1799 when he was 33 years old leaving a lasting legacy of democracy in his native country.

The Herald contacted East Dunbartonshire Council about Mr Nicolson’s concerns and is awaiting its response.