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Leanchoil Trust invites Forres area community to public meetings for update on exciting future for site


By Garry McCartney

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Leanchoil Trustees (from left) Graham Hilditch, Tom Duff, Seymour Monro, Marianne Nicolson, Andres Anderson and Graham Murdoch are looking forward to updating the community.
Leanchoil Trustees (from left) Graham Hilditch, Tom Duff, Seymour Monro, Marianne Nicolson, Andres Anderson and Graham Murdoch are looking forward to updating the community.

THE COMMUNITY is being invited to an update on the future of Leanchoil.

The Leanchoil Trust last shared its aspirations for the former hospital buildings - closed permanently in 2017 by NHS Grampian - before the coronavirus pandemic in February 2020 and will now be sharing developments at the Tolbooth on November 6 and Forres Town Hall on November 11.

Trust chairman, Graham Hilditch, confirmed over the last 18 months the team has been working hard towards finding a new purpose for the site that served the area's medical needs for 136 years.

He said: "We are determined to bring this wonderful asset into community ownership and preserve the complex, but also to deliver key support services to the local community while ensuring it has long term viability and sustainability.

"This is a big, multi-faceted project and a complicated process but we are making great progress."

A public consultation revealed resounding support for saving Leanchoil for the community - most respondents indicated that it should be used for health and wellbeing services.

Since then, the trustees have been working with NHS Grampian in preparation for submitting an Asset Transfer Request (ATR) by the end of the year.

Discussions are going well with NHS Grampian regarding the detail to successfully gain the agreement of the Health Board to transfer Leanchoil’s ownership to the Trust.

It is hoped that the ATR will be confirmed by late 2022 or early 2023. There will then follow two years of refurbishment and renovation to create a state-of-the-art health and wellbeing centre for the community, with anticipated opening in the Spring of 2025.

Leanchoil Trust is working with Forces charity Erskine to develop a proposal for a veterans’ activity centre at the site. This would occupy a portion of the main building and provide facilities and services to support the local veteran population.

Further opportunities are being explored with Health and Social Care Moray to identify services that could be provided, such as remote consultations to prevent patients having to travel to Aberdeen or Inverness, as well as prehabilitiation services such as dietary, physio and occupational therapy.

Local third sector organisations are being engaged and a range of other services that support health and wellbeing are being considered.

Leanchoil Trust is also exploring options for the development of the other buildings on the site which are currently in poor condition. Rural Housing Scotland is to carry out a housing needs assessment to investigate the local need for supported housing.

Graham said: "We are extremely excited with the plans. It is a long road, and there is still a way to go, but with the support of the community we believe Leanchoil is uniquely placed - with its beautiful building, history, and wonderful grounds - to become a place of innovation that will inspire us all to improve our own health and wellbeing.

"The time is right to update the community with our plans. We hope that as many people as possible can attend the events. Leanchoil will belong to you, and this is your opportunity to be involved."

On November 6, trustees will be available in the Tolbooth Court Room for people to talk to from 11am-3pm.

On November 11, there will be two events in the Town Hall's main hall. An open, pop-in session will run from 2-4pm. Trustees will present an update on the project from 7-8.30pm.

Graham said: "Trustees will talk about plans for the Leanchoil Centre and introducing 'Our Leanchoil', a history project telling the building's story through the memories of our community.

"A representative of Erskine will talk about their involvement. We also hope to have a representative from Rural Housing Scotland."

The project involves anyone living in the Forres Academy catchment area, which includes, Dyke, Kintessack, Conicavel, Rafford, Kinloss, Findhorn, Dallas, Edinkillie, Dunphail. The Leanchoil Trust plans to visit these communities over the coming months.

Attendees will also be able to find out how to get involved in Our Leanchoil, which will tell its history through stories, memories, and photographs.

Graham said: "For example, we were recently told a story by a lovely 94-year old lady who was visiting Leanchoil to see what it is like now.

"She did her nurses’ training there during the war and recounted that some of the airmen who were in hospital for treatment threw their medication out the window so they could remain in hospital longer!

"This is the sort of thing we want to capture so that we can bring the hospital to life again and make this history available to the whole community. We would love to hear from anyone who would like to contribute or be involved in this project."

For more information, contact Jo Lenihan - info@leanchoiltrust.org



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