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Transition Town Forres awarded £8000 from Forres Common Good Fund to help with rent for another year


By Garry McCartney

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Transition Town Forres built the Environmental Education and Healthy Living Centre on Bogton Road.
Transition Town Forres built the Environmental Education and Healthy Living Centre on Bogton Road.

AN UNDER-THREAT local charity has been awarded £8000 from the Forres Common Good Fund to cover part of its rent for 2021-22.

The award to Transition Town Forres (TTF) follows a Common Good grant of almost £16,000 to the charity to meet its rental charges in 2020-21.

Richard Lochhead MSP (front, left) chats to volunteers at TTF during a recent visit.
Richard Lochhead MSP (front, left) chats to volunteers at TTF during a recent visit.

A TTF spokesperson said: “A heartfelt thank you for the support of our councillors and the Minister for Just Transition, Richard Lochhead MSP.

“We have funds to pay the remainder of the rent for 2021-22. Whilst this gives us breathing space, we’re cracking on with a strong Community Asset Transfer (CAT) application. We believe that it is the only way to secure a sustainable future at Bogton Road. The CAT process is not straightforward, though, with legal complexities from our Common Good status.”

A successful CAT application would mean that TTF would effectively be owners of the site and remove the ongoing rental costs.

The main area and kitchen inside the centre is used for cooking and wellbeing classes, social events and interest group cafés.
The main area and kitchen inside the centre is used for cooking and wellbeing classes, social events and interest group cafés.

TTF, based at its Environmental Education and Healthy Living Centre on Bogton Road, was founded in 2008 and runs a community garden, free cooking and wellbeing classes, social events and interest group cafés.

One of its main aims is to reduce the wider local community’s carbon footprint.

Mr Lochhead was pleased to hear that TTF had secured the funding.

He said: “Groups like TTF have an important role to play in Moray’s journey to net zero.

“They have ambitious plans and are focused on helping organisations in Forres be more sustainable.”

The popular community garden at TTF.
The popular community garden at TTF.

TTF hold the Bogton site on an inalienable Common Good title under a 30-year lease. On entry in 2009, the charity paid a one-off sum of £40,000 to Moray Council and agreed to carry out improvement works in exchange for no rent being payable until first March 31, 2020. This was agreed at £13,200 per annum plus VAT.

In August 2020, TTF applied for a grant of £15,840 from the Forres Common Good Fund to cover the full rental charges for 2020-21. This application was granted by the four Forres councillors on the understanding that the TTF board prepare a business plan demonstrating financial viability including the ability to meet site rental costs.

In February 2021, TTF applied to the Common Good Fund to cover the full rent for 2021-22.

On June 30, it was agreed to defer a decision on that application for three months to allow TTF to find a way forward with a report to come back for consideration by the local authority. TTF subsequently reduced its application amount from £15,840 to £8000 and stated that a report on the proposed CAT would be brought to the council following the statutory consultation process. Approval of this reduced amount was then agreed by the local councillors.

One of the four, George Alexander, voted for disbursement of the reduced figure of £8000 but made it clear to TTF that “this cannot go on”.

He said: “The group has had 10 years to devise a business plan that was sustainable and instead of doing so, the original trustees abandoned ship and left the present trustees holding the baby, so to speak.

“We have other tenants of the Forres Common Good Fund who have had financial difficulties and members had to dip in their own pockets to keep their groups solvent.”

He added: “The point was made by some of my fellow councillors that the aims of TTF fitted in perfectly with the Moray Council Climate Strategy, but it is not the role of the Forres Common Good Fund to fund the council’s policies.”

An examination of TTF’s accounts indicates losses for the financial years 2017-20. However, these losses largely relate to depreciation of assets, which are now fully reduced.

The accounts for 2020/21 have not yet been published.

TTF’s spokesperson expressed optimism for the charity’s future: “The centre is busier than ever and it has been wonderful, with the relaxation of Covid-19 rules, to welcome old and new users, as well as welcome back our long-standing class tutors. It’s also very encouraging to have the centre and gardens used by the council’s social work and education departments. Veg from our Growing Strong project has been shared with Moray Food Plus and surplus given to Findhorn Bay Art’s pop-up shop on Forres High Street.”



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