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    Next steps for Forres Town Hall

    Forres Town Hall logo

    As FACT conclude the final stages of a Community Asset Transfer for Forres Town Hall, with support from the Scottish Land Fund, steps are now underway for a major Refurbishment Project for the Town Hall.

    This project aims to bring the building up to current standards in terms of accessibility, building services and fabric insulation, and to repair and refurbish the building in order that the nearly 200 year old Forres Town Hall can continue to thrive in the 21st century.

    Since 2017, following extensive community consultation, FACT has been able to develop a clear vision for Forres Town Hall, which will see its functionality transformed. The stated aims of that vision are: 

    • The wish to transform the Main Hall into a modern multi-purpose accessible performance space      
    • A need to ensure universal accessibility to upper floor accommodation at both the front and the rear of the building 
    • A need to maximise opportunities to create additional flexible floor space for use by the community and social enterprises 
    • The wish to restore the Lesser Hall to become a beautiful event space once more that celebrates the heritage of the building 
    • The wish to make the entrance foyer more welcoming and practical 

    To achieve the above future vision for Forres Town Hall, funding from the Scottish Land Fund, which also supported the Community Asset Transfer, has enabled applications for planning permission and listed building consent to be submitted to Moray Council’s Planning Department for a transformative project to refurbish, insulate and improve the building.

    Links to the planning application and listed building consent applications can be found on Moray Council’s Planning Online portal under Ref.No. 20/00888/APP and  Ref. No. 20/00889/LBC.  The Design and Heritage Statement, one of the supporting documents submitted as part of the planning and listed building consent applications, provides a full summary of the design proposals. 

    The design proposals submitted for planning permission and listed building consent, sub-divides the Town Hall into three parts – a front section with foyer, toilets and a restored Lesser Town Hall, a central section with a large multi-purpose performance space and a rear section with three levels of flexible workspace, and meeting rooms. It does this by proposing: 

    1. To remove the art deco alterations from the Main Hall – revealing the original roof structure – and to install retractable seating in its place, to allow the Hall to be used for more flexible uses 
    2. Through removing the gallery in the Main Hall, to re-purpose the first-floor corridors (and the stairs that lead to them) that service the gallery as flexible work/ meeting space and storage 
    3. To create new multi-purpose rooms and support space over three floors in the place of the current stage, including a new room below the roof structure overlooking the Main Hall 
    4. To insert a new second floor mezzanine in the first-floor room on the front elevation
    5. To provide new platform lifts at the front and rear of the building, to provide almost universal access throughout  
    6. To introduce natural light to the Main Hall via new rooflights 
    7. To provide modern fit for purpose sanitary facilities including accessible toilets and an accessible shower 
    8. To greatly improve the functionality and size of the existing kitchen 
    9. To establish dedicated plant space at the rear of the Main Hall to allow the future installation of efficient energy systems 
    10. To restore the Lesser Hall to its former grandeur through careful restoration and redecoration 
    11. To improve external accessibility to the building by adjusting external levels and improving surfacing in the pend 
    12. To carry out essential and desirable fabric repairs 

    The Long section drawing shown below gives an idea of some of the above changes.

    Community Asset Transfer and lockdown

    When Moray Council took the decision to close Forres Town Hall completely in 2017, Forres Area Community Trust (FACT) stepped in to lease and manage the building on behalf of the community. This has been very successful as FACT have worked with user groups to increase occupancy and use of the building which doubled in the first 12 months of taking on the building. 

    Until lockdown earlier this year a wide range of user groups including Forres & District Pipe Band, the Varis Players, Film Forres and the Forres branch of the Royal Scottish County Dance Society have been able to continue using this space. 

    FACT has also been able to offer various activities in the Town Hall such as the popular Forres Online drop in sessions, and Older Persons Project activities such as gentle seated exercise and welcomed new groups to use the building including Turning Point Church, Zumba and Pound exercise classes, Guide Dog Training and community meals with Moray Food Plus. 

    During lockdown it has been possible for Forres Town Hall to serve as a hub for the Forres & Kinloss community food project which has allocated over 1,000 meals since May of this year. It has also been open at limited times for donations to be made to the Scrubs project, food donations, masks, and blankets for the Cameron Project in a Covid-safe way. It has even been possible during lockdown to have the help of volunteers to refresh some of the current décor in the North Room on a socially distanced basis. 

    Following the successful lease period, FACT is now 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 as it has been delayed by the pandemic, however this is expected to complete before the end of the year. The building will then be owned by the Forres Area Community Trust on behalf of the community.

    Building your digital skills

    Online Centres Network logo

    Want some free help to start building your digital skills?

    Learn my Way & Make It Click are developed by the team at Good Things Foundation who have a network of UK Online Centres.

    Did you know Forres Online is part of the UK Online Centre Network and can offer advice & support about what you want to learn and the help you may need!

    Get in touch now by calling 01309 674388 or email janice@forresarea.org

    Learn my Way

    About #connectingscotland

    Connecting Scotland is a Scottish Government  programme set up in response to Coronavirus. It is a partnership with the Scottish Government, Local Councils, and SCVO.  It is also supported by a range of  other organisations from around Scotland and the UK.

    Getting online will help people access the support and services they need. As well as helping them to keep in touch with friends & family. In order to help get people online they are supplying Ipads, Chromebooks and Internet Dongles along with help and support people to develop digital skills. They are mainly targeting those that are:

    • Digitally excluded – Those that do not have the appropriate device/connectivity at home.
    • On low incomes – Those that cannot afford to purchase a device and or pay for internet access at home.
    • At risk of isolation due to coronavirus – Those that are vulnerable (shielding) or higher risk of severe illness.

    Forres Online via Moray Council  has been allocated a number of devices/connectivity and will be providing ongoing support.  If you know of someone who falls into the category above and would benefit from this programme, then please get in touch with  Janice Cooper Forres Online Project Coordinator 01309 674388 or email janice@forresarea.org

    Forres Rotary’s Citizen of the Year

    Debbie Herron

    Congratulations to Debbie Herron on being chosen as Forres Rotary’s Citizen of the Year.

    Debbie is the lead development officer with Forres Area Community Trust (FACT). Among other ventures they have taken over the responsibility for running the Town Hall.

    We are sure you will agree that Debbie is a very worthy winner as she has done so much for Forres in a very unassuming way.

    Big Donation to Moray Food Plus

    A big thank you to Kathleen McGookin and her colleagues from Johnston’s of Elgin for a huge donation to Moray Food plus.

    Kathleen & friends made face masks and asked for donations. The cash generated has turned into this massive food donation!

    Well done to everyone involved!  

    An update from the FACT team

    Following on from an intensive briefing day last Friday we hope to have the  volunteer telephone befriending programme up and running by Friday this week. We can help with signposting to services that can help you  if you are in need.  This is a work in progress and will develop over the coming weeks as we understand the impact of the pandemic on our community.

    Please keep in touch through social media or by calling us on 01309 674 388 and leaving a message. We will get back to you as soon as we can.

    Town Hall Project Officer

    Following its acquisition of Forres Town Hall from Moray Council via a Community Asset Transfer and with grant support from the Scottish Land Fund, Forres Area Community Trust (FACT) is seeking a Project Officer to work on the development of Stage 1 of the £2 – £3m Town Hall Regeneration Project. This will secure the future of this significant Category B Listed Building as a multi-purpose hub for the local community.

    The appointment of the Project Officer will be from April 2020 until the end of March 2021, during which time the project will be developed up to Planning Permission / Listed Building Consent stage. The role will involve 30 hours per week at a salary of £20,826 per annum.

    For more information view the attached Job Description & Application Form.

    A First For Forres Area Community Trust

    A bid to buy Forres Town Hall and turn it into a venue for community, business and training events has been successful in the latest round of grant applications to the Scottish Land Fund.

    Forres Area Community Trust has been awarded £116,365 to purchase the hall, which has been a feature of the town’s High Street since 1829, in order to provide community facilities, meeting rooms, study and workshop areas, training facilities and co-working hot desks.

    Debbie Herron, Development Manager Forres Area Community Trust, said:

    “We are delighted at the news that Forres Area Community Trust has been awarded the SLF funding to buy Forres Town Hall on behalf of the community. This endorsement of our work means that we can continue to work to support the development and resilience of our community into the future.” 

    Securing the Town Hall into community ownership and having the support of the Scottish Land Fund is the first step in redeveloping and refurbishing the building for the benefit of the community.

    Fabio Villani Chair of Forres Area Community Trust said:

    “The Scottish Land Fund’s generous support enables us to purchase Forres Town Hall as well as to further develop our plans for its future. It marks an important milestone in the history of Forres, as one more key element of the town’s heritage is fully returned to the direct care of the local community. It also marks an important milestone in the development of FACT as a key organisation in helping the people of Forres make the most of the Town’s many assets. ”

    If anyone would like any further information, please do get in touch on 01309 674388, info@forresarea.org or pop into the office between 10am and 1pm through the week.