Consultant to appraise former hospital for possible Community Asset Transfer
FORRES Community Council (FCC) hopes to have Leanchoil appraised for alternative future use by the autumn.
FCC chairman Graham Hilditch and colleague Graham Murdoch have been leading a project to keep the buildings and site for the community since owners NHS Grampian announced that the Victorian-era hospital was closed for good last November.
Mr Hilditch said: "We have been assisted by a retired local architect who has a great deal of experience in this field. He drew up a tender for consultants to carry out a full options appraisal on the condition of the buildings, cost of refurbishment and potential future uses.
"The appraisal will have a heavy emphasis on public consultation/engagement to get the views of the local people and to assess their hopes and aspirations for the buildings."
A shortlist of consultants was drawn up with tenders submitted by the end of February and interviews being carried out this month. The appraisal will investigate the condition of the buildings from economic and social perspectives.
Mr Hilditch added: "The architects have heritage experience and understand our emphasis. Part of the building is listed and this has to be taken into account."
It has been 125 years since Leanchoil was built for the people of Forres using funds donated from Lord Strathcona. It was taken under statutory powers in 1947 ahead of formation of the NHS in 1948.
In recent years, FCC has taken the lead in ensuring the much-loved building and site at the top of St Leonard's Road is not sold to private developers. It is hoped that a Community Asset Transfer (CAT), similar to that of the Tolbooth to Forres Heritage Trust, can be carried out once custodians are found.
Mr Hilditch said: "We have had talks with Highlands and Islands Enterprise about the process and forged links. They mapped out the route we have to take and confirmed that we had taken the correct approach to date.We have also sent a letter of intent to NHS Grampian regarding a possible future CAT. They have acknowledged this, given us permission to proceed and will help in the process. They have been very helpful and encouraging."
A professional appraisal is the next stage of the project and is expected to cost around £25,000. FCC has applied to the Architecture Heritage and Berry Burn Community Funds to cover this.
"It is important that the investment is made in a detailed study," said Mr Hilditch. "It will ensure that the feedback meets all of the required criteria.
"There is a lot happening in the background, we have a good team on board and we are making good progress.
"This represents an exciting opportunity for the future of the area. We are looking forward to getting back the report in due course."