Campaigners in Moray are preparing to submit plans to begin a £3million transformation of a town centre landmark.
The Forres Area Community Trust (Fact) has already had a bid to buy the High Street town hall from the council accepted.
Now the group is preparing to overhaul the Victorian building to transform it into a modern venue capable of hosting a variety of events.
Plans have been submitted to Moray Council to overhaul the ageing walls, window and roof to repair damage as well as internal alterations that will include lifts to the upper floors being installed for the first time.
Space for tiered seating in the hall for professional shows and events as well as up to 20 small offices available for rent are poised to be created.
Debbie Heron, Fact’s development manager, said: “With the coronavirus pandemic it’s been difficult to progress the purchase of the building, but everything is fine with it and we’re hoping to have it done by the end of the year.
“In the meantime we’ve been trying to press on with funding applications so we can get the work done as quickly as possible once we have permission.
“We’re lucky we’ve already got support from the Scottish Land Fund and a member of staff for a year to progress the planning permissions and funding.”
The cost of the overhaul has been estimated by Fact at nearly £3.1million. Moray Council is supporting the group’s bid to the Scottish Government’s regeneration capital grant fund for £2.7million with potential funding also identified from Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Fact was already drawing up its plans for Forres Town Hall ahead of the council’s decision to shut the building unless another group could be found to run it.
The building’s Saturday coffee mornings are a fixture on the local calendar with slots already fully booked to the end of 2021.
During the coronavirus pandemic groups have used the hall to coordinate relief for those in financial difficulty as well as assistance for those struggling to access online services.
In a report, agents LDN Architects said: “For almost 200 years, Forres Town Hall has had an unmistakable presence in Forres. It has seen significant change and witnessed moments of great social importance for Moray.
“Fact’s vision for the building will transform its functionality and secure its future as a place to be used and loved by the community for generations to come.”