The sale of a Moray town hall to a private developer has been backed by both the local authority and the community but the final decision will be made by a court.
Cullen Town Hall is a category B listed building and is situated next door to the historic Seafield Arms hotel which was bought two years ago by Milne Property Developments (MPD) who are currently refurbishing it.
Now MPD are also in negotiations with Moray Council to purchase the town hall and turn it into an extension of the adjoining hotel, with the ground floor space retained for community use.
Since the property is a Common Good asset, however, the local authority will have to head to court if they want to sell it.
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The Common Good is a fund of money and assets owned by Moray Council on behalf of the local inhabitants of the towns within the region.
Cullen Town Hall belongs to the local community through this and now Moray Council must apply to the court on whether, and under what conditions, the property can be disposed.
In the past, the Cullen community explored taking on the listed hall itself, only for representatives to decide the costs were prohibitively expensive.
Cullen and Deskford Community Council has already backed the sale to MPD.
Chairman Stewart Black said: “We held a public meeting in Cullen last month and gave unanimous support for the sale of the Cullen Town Hall to MPD.”
The developer has plans to convert the upper floor of the hall into six new suites, a 40-seat function suite and a meeting room.
They would then lease out the majority of the bottom floor to various Cullen community groups.
Keith and Cullen councillor Ron Shepherd is also fully supportive of the sale.
He said: “I am absolutely delighted that the community voted at the open meeting last week giving their support for Buckie firm MPD to purchase the Town Hall.
“The firm will use the top half and give the bottom to local groups.
“This deal will benefit the whole community as the hall was in need of a major refurbishment, which the council was not prepared to do.
“The last thing I would have wanted was to see this beautiful hall boarded up.
“The next step is a report goes to the Sheriff as it is a Common Good Asset.”
During the Second World War, the town hall was used as a cinema and during a performance in 1942 the projection box caught fire and the building was severely damaged.
It was then rebuilt in the 1950s and is now badly dated, while asbestos is known to be present in the roof.
Since it is a B-listed building, it would be expensive to renovate and it was estimated that a full refurbishment would cost up to £500,000.
A Moray Council spokesman confirmed that a court date has been booked for next year when the possible sale of the venue will be discussed.
He said: “The case will be the subject of a hearing scheduled at Elgin Sheriff Court on January 18 at 10.30am.
“If there have been any objections received from the public notice issued on November 9 these will be aired on that day before the Sheriff.”