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It looks like a deal may have been struck to sell the site of the now closed Underwater Centre in Fort William to Indian metals tycoon Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, which owns the Lochaber smelter in the town.
Operations at the world-renowned undersea diver training facility ceased in October with the loss of nearly 50 jobs and subsequent efforts by administrators to sell the business as a going concern proved unsuccessful.
This week Iain Beaton, of the Invergordon-based commercial diving services provider Caldive, told the Lochaber Times he had written to Mr Gupta urging him to withdraw GFG Alliance’s bid for the centre in order to allow his own offer to be successful.
Mr Beaton said his bid was at the upper end of a commercial valuation he had obtained for the site, including buildings and pier, which had pegged its worth at between £1.2million and £1.55million.
Mr Beaton wanted to buy the site in order to reopen it as a diver training base.
Asked to comment, a spokesman for the landowners told the Lochaber Times this week: ‘These matters form part of an ongoing commercial negotiation.
‘Like most businesses, my clients prefer to conduct their business confidentially and therefore they have no comment to make in the meantime.’
GFG Alliance is also playing its cards close to its chest, with a spokesman saying: ‘We are in a confidential process so can’t comment on the details.’
Mr Beaton says he is ‘devastated’ that he has apparently been unsuccessful and does not see any way forward for his plans.
Asked what he thought was behind GFG Alliance’s interest, Mr Beaton told us: ‘No idea, other than they have no intention of operating it as a dive centre and, after some 40 years, all that the centre stood for will be gone.’
‘I was very keen to move this forward as a going concern and it is hugely disappointing to ourselves that there now seems no way forward on this.’
Lochaber MSP Kate Forbes is hopeful that when the new owner of the site is publicly confirmed it will result in an investment to benefit the area.
‘The previous owners built the business up over many years and were instrumental in creating a centre of excellence in Fort William,’ she said.
‘Their efforts and achievements cannot be overstated, and so I am hopeful that somebody with the same commitment to Lochaber invests in these assets.’