A symbolic first sod was cut in Tomatin yesterday, marking a milestone for the community of Strathdearn.
Resident Vivian Roden and her six-year-old grandson James did the honours, setting in train the construction of what villagers are calling a 21st century community facility fit for their aspirations.
With Tomatin’s old hall condemned for having asbestos and about to come down, the new centre will provide a bigger gathering space, two meeting rooms, the potential for conference facilities, a youth room and changing rooms for the existing covered sports area close by.
The building will have renewable energy features and charging points for electric vehicles. It will also showcase local produce and the culture and heritage of the upper River Findhorn.
Mrs Roden, chairwoman of Strathdearn community council said the need for a bigger hall had been identified in a community survey in 2011.
She said: “We had lost quite a lot of our amenities over the years, we used to have the Tomatin Inn and the Little Chef but gradually these things closed.
“We’re keen to see the amenities replaced.
“The new hall will enhance the opportunities for large gatherings like weddings and funerals.”
Tomatin’s Millenium Hall, previously used for community meetings and events, will now house the community-owned shop and a café.
Mrs Roden said: “The shop is a lifeline service and it will be good to have a café in the village, both in the same complex.”
Strathdearn Community Developments (SCD) is running the project.
SCD chairman Stanley Falconer said: “The old hall has served the community well, but we realised that, with the projected increase in development in the area, it would not really address the needs of Strathdearn moving into the future.
“We hope the hub will be the ‘keystone’ in a range of projects SCD is delivering in the area.
“These include including ultra-fast fibre broadband to 50 households in Moy, a carer scheme to support elderly and ill people in their own homes and an improved path network.”
Compass Building & Construction Services has been appointed for the construction, which is estimated at 16 months.
The £2.5m hub is funded by advances on income from windfarms at Moy, Farr and Dumnaglass, with a £500,000 from the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund and a £500,000 loan from Social Investment Scotland.