Campaigners spearheading redevelopment projects in Moray are preparing two bids worth a combined £4.1million for Scottish Government funding.
The Forres Area Community Trust (Fact) wants to apply for £2.77million from the regeneration capital grant fund to complete its vision for Forres Town Hall, which it saved from closure.
Meanwhile, the Cabrach Trust is seeking £1.4million for its project to convert an abandoned farm in into a historic distillery and heritage centre to showcase traditional methods used in the 19th Century to attract visitors and sustain jobs in the remote area.
Both applications will be discussed by Moray Council today due to the fund requiring the backing of a local authority for bids to be submitted.
Fact has already saved the Victorian town hall in Forres from being boarded up after signing a lease in 2018 and last year had a £75,000 offer to buy the building accepted by the council.
Development manager Debbie Heron explained the project would secure the future of the landmark by installing tiered seating for performances, creating 20 small offices available for rent and disabled access to the upper floors for the first time.
She said: “If it goes ahead then we would be refurbishing the town hall so it’s fit for the 21st century, it really needs to be done.
“We want to make it a much more flexible space so it can be used as a multi-purpose venue, whether that’s from professional organisations, youth groups, charities or social enterprises.
“It would have been closed if we hadn’t stepped in, which would have been a loss. Pre-Covid we had already doubled occupancy rates from what they were when it was run by the council.”
The total cost of the Forres Town Hall revamp has been estimated at nearly £3.1million with potential funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise identified to make up the gap.
The Cabrach Trust already has £2.1million of funding in place its distillery project from various sources with the Scottish Government grant identified to fill the remainder.
A report from Moray Council’s economic growth and regeneration manager, Reni Milburn, explained planning permission was already in place for the distillery project.
She said: “Collectively both Cabrach initiatives will provide employment for 15 people.
“The project will generate about £20million in economic impact to the local economy over a decade and will be major contributor through jobs, the heritage centre, the distillery and its supply chain.”