Campaigners in Moray signed up to the £3 million transformation of a town centre landmark have been given the official go-ahead.
Moray Council has granted planning permission and listed building consent for the Forres Town Hall regeneration project.
Forres Area Community Trust (Fact) submitted their plans in August to overhaul the Victorian building’s 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.
This news marks a big step towards implementing their vision, which will see the town hall’s functionality transformed and a refurbished community building fit for the 21st century.
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.
The cost of the overhaul has been estimated by Fact at about £3.2 million.
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.
The building’s Saturday coffee mornings are a fixture on the local calendar with slots already fully booked to the end of 2021.
The Moray town’s hall has played a significant role in the community since it was built in the late 1820s.
The uses have ranged from the provision of a library for the working class in the 1840s as part of the wider International Mechanics’ Institute movement, being requisitioned as a field hospital during World War One.
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.
Fabio Villani, Chairman of Forres Area Community Trust welcomed the “tremendous news” as the group are set to launch their fundraising strategy to raise funds to ensure this project takes place.
Fact is also in the final stages of a Community Asset Transfer of the 1993 year old building, expected to be complete before the end of the year after a bid to buy the High Street hall was accepted by the council earlier this year.
Fact development manager Debbie Herron believes the project will lead to reduced running costs, more efficient use of space, and long-term sustainability for the entire community.
She added: “We are very excited to receive this news.
“Fact is also in the final stages of concluding a Community Asset Transfer for Forres Town Hall, with support from the Scottish Land Fund.
“The final sale has not yet gone through, but we expect to complete before the end of the year.
“Forres Town Hall will then be owned by the Forres Area Community Trust on behalf of the community.
“These successful planning permission and listed building consent applications will enable us to move forward with our plans to regenerate this iconic building at the heart of our community.”
The hall has remained closed to the public during the pandemic lockdown period and information will soon be released about reopening.