NEILSTON shopkeepers are in a stand-off with East Renfrewshire Council over who should pay to maintain public spaces, including a much-used car park.

The owners of six units in Main Street, including the Post Office, Sinclair Hair Studios and RA Dunbar & Son Butchers, want the council to help with repairs to the car park behind their shops and take ownership of the pedestrian square in front.

Both areas were purchased by the retailers last year as part of a deal to buy the land under their shops from the council – but they say maintaining them has proven too costly and complicated to be feasible.

Billy Sinclair, who opened his first hairdressing studio in Neilston in 1968, moved to his Main Street unit when it was built 35 years ago.

He said: “We couldn’t buy the land at the time, so we had a 100-year lease on the shops. We finally bought the land last year but the council insisted that part of the deal included the car park at the back and the frontage.

“They won’t do anything to help maintain the car park, even though it’s used by the general public. They expect us to pay for it but getting six people to agree to repairs like that, especially when you’ve got absentee landlords involved, is impossible.

“We would be within our rights to close it off but we don’t want to do that. Parking is badly needed in Neilston and we think it should be available to the community.

“Personally, I feel the area at the front is in the public realm and should be used for public purposes.”

After paying a hefty sum for the pedestrian square as part of their deal, Ewen Dunbar, of RA Dunbar & Son Butchers, said the owners are now willing to sell it back to the council for just £1 but face being hit with legal fees.

He added: “We paid for the land and now we’re handing it back for next to nothing, which isn’t very nice.

“On top of that, they want us to pay the legal fees but they won’t even tell us what they are. We would quite like to know what they are before we start the process – and that’s part of the problem.

“The car park is owned by the shops but our argument is it is treated as a public car park. Everyone uses it. We’d just like some help towards it, to repair the potholes.”

Alan Walker, of Neilston Community Council, is backing the shopkeepers.

He said: “It’s tantamount to Glasgow Council flogging off George Square to the businesses round about it and then telling punters it is their responsibility.

“It’s the same thing, on a smaller scale. They’ve flogged off the public realm.”

A spokesman for East Renfrewshire Council said it hopes further discussions will help to find a solution.

He added: “The shopfront area and rear car park is private property, owned by the shopkeepers and currently not the responsibility of the council.

“We have had positive discussions with the shopkeepers regarding the sale of the shopfront area and, as with all property or land sales, any legal fees are covered by the seller.

“We are, however, keen to continue dialogue and achieve an outcome agreeable to all concerned.”