FORRES Community Council (FCC) has funding in place for an investigation into future uses of Leanchoil Hospital.
Following an announcement that Berry Burn Community Fund and the Forres Common Good Fund have awarded the group £20,000 and £7,500 respectively, FCC chairman Graham Hilditch has confirmed the group is ready for a feasibilty study of the Victorian-era building, ahead of a possible Community Asset Transfer (CAT) from owners NHS Grampian.
He said: "I am delighted that Berry Burn and our elected members have recognised the potential if we can develop Leanchoil for long term community use, whether it be health and well being, sheltered housing, care support, dementia, rehabilitation centre for armed services or any other multitude of uses.
"The next stage will be to notify the successful consultants. We have emphasised the importance of engagement to identify what the public want done so we will be working closely with the local community in the months ahead."
Local councillor Claire Feaver was delighted to support FCC's application for support from the Common Good Fund.
She said: "People in Forres want Leanchoil retained for the community. Many local people will be reassured that the Common Good is allowing serious work to be undertaken to secure the future of Leanchoil in a way which wins popular support."
Project leaders, FCC chairman Graham Hilditch and treasurer Graham Murdoch, have appointed associate members Tom Duff and Andrew Anderson to help secure a future for the hospital that was closed last year.
Mr Hilditch said: "Together with awards from Berry Burn and £5329 from the Architectural Heritage Fund, the Common Good funding should allow us to progress with investigating a brighter future for Leanchoil. It is important that we find uses which enjoy community support and which are financially sustainable.”
A team of architects will lead the survey but an economic consultancy will also ensure that any suggested projects are viable, financable, and sustainable.
The consultants will report back in the Autumn. At that point, FCC can decide the next step, including potentially applying for a CAT.
Mr Hilditch added: "We have been in positive and helpful talks with NHS Grampian for some time. They have indicated that they would support our application if terms can be agreed.
"We have already been in talks with funding bodies for stage 2. A steering group will need to be set up to take the project through to completion.
"The next few months will be exciting times for the whole community."