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Project under way to improve energy efficiency of Forres Town Hall

Published: 14/03/2024

HIE has approved a £150,000 investment in the £568,898.81 first phase of what is expected to be a £5m total refurbishment project.

Work is under way on a major project to significantly improve the energy efficiency of Forres Town Hall in Moray and help secure its future for the benefit of the local community and visitors to the area.

HIE has approved a £150,000 investment in the £568,898.81 first phase of what is expected to be a £5m total refurbishment project led by the Forres Area Community Trust (FACT).

FACT is led and managed by local people with the long-term aim to make the Forres area a better place to live, work and visit. It was incorporated in November 2011 in response to the planned closure of RAF Kinloss and the predicted social and economic impact this would have locally.

The group acquired Forres Town Hall in 2021, through a community asset transfer from Moray Council, and has since been working on the building’s redevelopment.

Planning permission and listed building consent has been secured for the refurbishment, which will enable FACT to maximise the functionality and use of the Town Hall as an enterprising community venue.

It will be a valuable source of income for the Trust, the proceeds of which will be ploughed back into the Town Hall to support Trust’s activity programme for the local community.

The first phase of the refurbishment is specifically aimed at cutting carbon emission significantly. This involves roof repairs, the purchase and installation of guttering and drainage, and upgrading the building’s insulation.

Confirming the HIE contribution, Karen Chamberlain development manager in the agency’s Moray team, said:

“Forres Town Hall is right in the town centre and has tremendous potential to position itself as a great and affordable venue for local community groups and social enterprises. In providing modern and flexible facilities it will become a catalyst for groups, organisations and businesses to benefit from increased footfall in the town.

“In becoming a more environmentally friendly building with lower emissions and running costs, the Town Hall will not only help the Trust become more sustainable but will also contribute to Scotland’s transition to a net zero economy. I am very pleased we are able to support this first phase of the refurbishment and look forward to continuing to work with FACT as the project progresses.”

Jim Farquharson, chair of the FACT Board, said:

“It was with great pleasure I watched the scaffolding climbing round the Town Hall. The start of the first phase, of bringing the building into the environmentally friendly, modern, useful asset for the people of Forres and area around it, that I and others, knew it could be.

“A lot of people have put in a lot of work to get to this position and we are indebted to our volunteers, the staff, the management, the directors of FACT, past members, and the local businesses, who have supported us to keep the doors open.

“We are of course very thankful to the financial support and excellent assistance and advice, not just here locally but in the wider area, Scotland and Westminster. We would also like to thank the Development Trusts Association Scotland (Green Shoots), Berry Burn Community Fund, Architecture Heritage Fund and the Just Transition Fund administered by tsiMoray through Participatory Budgeting for their support with the preliminary surveys that enabled us to inform the tendering process for Phase 1.

“We have made a start, but there is still quite a way to go. With the continuing support of the Community, I am convinced we will get there, and we hope to be setting up a crowdfunding campaign very soon to help us keep the momentum going.”

Additional funding for the project has come from the Scottish Landfill Community Fund (£20,000), Moray Local Area Fund (£30,000) and the Scottish Governments Just Transition Fund (£50,000). The UK Government also awarded £50,000 from the Community Ownership Fund to help towards the revenue costs associated with the project. The remaining money has come from FACT reserves.