A church congregation wants to breathe new life into abandoned council offices in Elgin as part of plans to expand its offering to the community.
The town’s Baptist Church has applied for permission to take over and transform the former Moray Council premises on Academy Street.
The church on Reidhaven Street has rapidly expanded in recent years, and is now in need of more space for Sunday morning youth work sessions and its mother and toddlers group.
Pastor Graham Swanson said the extra space will help the church to offer even more for Elgin residents, and the purchase is based on the condition that members will be able to change its designated use as office space.
Mr Swanson said: “Our church is across the road from the old council building and we are very restricted in what we can use our current building for.
“In normal circumstances, we run a mother and toddlers group twice a week, which is beginning to outgrow our premises.
“Also on a Sunday, we have had to hire the Elgin Youth Café because we don’t have enough space for our children’s work.
“We have always been looking for somewhere to have our youth activities and when this became available right across the road it seemed the ideal thing to go for.
“It would be used for our youth groups and community activities going forward.”
Elgin Baptist Church is doing all it can to remain a focal point of the community despite growing concerns across the country about the declining role of churches in local life.
Mr Swanson said the purchase of the building would be “crucial” in making strides in widening the church’s remit.
The pastor added: “It is crucial for our community plans that we get this building.
“The sale is conditioned on the change of use and if we are not able to get a change of the use, then there is no deal.
“We really need to continue the work we have been doing pre-Covid, and other plans we have to engage with the wider community.
“Nowadays you hear about churches declining but we are in a fortunate area.”
In the past, the council offices have been a rehearsal place for the Out of the Darkness Theatre Company.
Architects CM Design added: “This application represents positivity and growth in a season of significant challenge economically and socially.
“The applicant is courageously positioning themselves in readiness to serve the community in a great measure and needs the space and resources to do so.
“The applicant, Elgin Baptist Church, is a thriving, growing and socially active gathering that operates in the centre of the city and serves parishioners across Moray.
“This would generally include uses such as a creche, a day nursery, day centre provision, provision of education, displays of art, public worship, religious instructions and the social activities of a religious body.”
Members of the public can comment on the plans and lodge objections or letters of support on the council’s website.