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The prospective owners of the Castle Toward estate have submitted a masterplan to Argyll and Bute Council’s planning department – although the sale of the estate has yet to be finalised.

The plan, available to view on the council’s website, shows fewer new-build houses than originally mooted, but these seem to have been replaced by the development of a lodge house for housing.

The document speaks of future public music, sport and arts events as well as creating holiday cottages to pay for the running of the estate. and commercial development ‘showcasing local produce’ in the gatehouse.

A passage in the masterplan about access to the estate has caused concern among south Cowal residents.

The plan talks of hoping to increase future public access, but the sentence ‘A small charge will be made for access which will help with the upkeep and renovation of the garden’ has caused some consternation.

A core aim of the project is given as ‘managed public access’.

However, Denice Punler, named as the council’s preferred bidder in June last year, told this newspaper: “Within the plan we are developing a design for a very special garden and this is what shall be charged for in the future, to go along with the economic sustainability of the estate, as all estates need to do in order to pay for its upkeep.

“Many local and national attractions use a charging method to help sustain the estate. Locally these include Mount Stuart as well as Benmore Botanic Gardens and Fairwinds in Dunoon.”

Denice continued: “The grounds immediately around the castle are to be kept private. This is actually the case at the moment, though under the current circumstances it is very much relaxed.”

Other local people are concerned about losing access to a path through the estate.

Mrs Punler said: “Full access is given from the old castle right up to the Chinese lakes, and of course the current core path is as it stands, and there will be no charge for access here.

“We discussed this at the community council meeting and have to date received no objection. “

She continued: “There is no new recognised path as some would have others believe. The support we are receiving from many is very positive, though a few are still quite vociferous in objecting to everything we intend to do - but we are hoping time will help in this matter. We are dedicated to proceed with this and are working hard on an end date.”

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesman said: “Work to conclude the sale continues to progress. Our focus is on delivering a prosperous future for Castle Toward that benefits both the local and wider community and we look forward to announcing the next stage in Castle Toward’s future once the sale is complete.”

Mrs Punler concluded: “Our masterplan is an extensive blueprint of how we see the Castle developing over time and is our vision for returning Castle Toward to its former glory and helping to sustain it for the future - and also create much needed jobs for the area.”

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