A mothballed bank building has been taken over by a north-east community.
RBS’s Huntly branch was among 62 across Scotland given the chop in a controversial programme of closures which began earlier this year.
Banff, Turriff, Nairn, Dyce, Bridge of Don and Ellon were also shut, with Stonehaven already closed last year.
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Bank bosses were accused of “abandoning” the north-east’s high streets with fears raised that it could be the death knell for many towns and villages after years of out of town development and the rise of online shopping.
However community groups in Huntly are determined to breathe new life into the former bank, in The Square, and have now taken over the site on a trial basis.
Huntly Development Trust has secured the vacant building at a peppercorn rent from the bank.
The property will now come under the control of the Huntly Town Team – a forum of 14 local organisations including the trust, schools, and local councillors.
There will now be a trial of the site, known as the Huntly Hub, to see if there is interest among local groups and businesses to use the building for events, pop-up shops and other types of meetings.
Donald Boyd, from the trust, said: “Huntly and District Development Trust is delighted to be able to facilitate this opportunity in the former RBS.
“It is a small but tangible start to our plans to help regenerate Huntly town centre. We’d encourage all with ideas for trialling short-term uses for the space to get in touch and we’ll work with other members of Huntly Town Team to try and make them happen.”
The current lease is a short-term arrangement to gauge the interest level for such a facility. The centre management hope to have it open and ready for use by December 1.
The town team has been assisted by Aberdeenshire Council, which provided some funding, and Icecream Architecture.
Desmond Bernie, from the firm, said: “It is widely recognised that addressing vacant buildings in Huntly’s main square and high street is not only the key priority but a big challenge. Getting short term access to the old RBS premises is a small step on this challenge, but has the potential to spark new activities that otherwise just would not happen.”
Anyone interested in using the space should either email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the trust on 01466 799416.