I WAS pleased to see that Clackmannanshire Council discussed the need to urgently protect Alloa’s Greenfield House.

Sold off by the council several years ago, local residents have watched on with sadness as the B-Listed building has deteriorated and languished under private ownership to the point that its structural integrity was in question.

Watching something which once belonged to the community go to waste will obviously be a source of deep frustration for everyone in Alloa. Sitting right in the middle of Greenfield Park, there’s no doubt that the building could be put to good use.

A recent Scottish Green letter writing campaign to the owners, Kapital Residential, attracted a flurry of interest demonstrating the depth of feeling on the issue locally.

Concerns about the building were brought into focus back in February when a group of urban explorers entered the building and posted a visit to their video online. There are obviously serious safety concerns associated with this kind of activity and it can’t be condoned or encouraged.

But can we seriously be shocked when things like this happen?

Greenfield House is an interesting, beautiful historic building in fine surroundings that once belonged to the community. It should surprise absolutely no one that someone at some point would want to have a look around.

The fact that it borders on derelict at this point, is a hazard and that next to nothing has been done to secure the site is entirely the fault of the current owners.

Kapital Residential’s apparent complete disinterest in improving the perimeter fencing is obviously deeply concerning and addressing that issue, to make sure that no one gets hurt, should certainly be the first priority. But once that is addressed plans need to be put in place to secure a meaningful future for the building.

Those plans absolutely have to involve the community but given their unwillingness to engage, the only sensible resolution at this point is for Kapital to sell the building or transfer it back to the council for community use.

It is unacceptable that a private developer can hold a building in the centre of a public space hostage, letting it rot until they decide what to do with it.

The issue cuts to the heart of an imbalance of power when it comes to community spaces in Scotland. The council does have options when it comes to addressing the issues at Greenfield House but all of them are costly and many of them will require the property to sink further into disrepair before action can be taken.

In which case restoration will be more expensive or it could be too late to save the building.

In the future we need to make sure that people have a meaningful say in what happens to community assets like Greenfield House.

That means reforms to planning regulations, strengthening local democracy and determined work to engage communities on plans for public property long before we reach a crisis point.

The private sector can no longer have an iron grip on public space.