A vision for the transformation of the Town Hall in Forres has been released by Forres Area Community Trust (FACT)
FACT are the charitable organisation currently in the final stages of a Community Asset Transfer of the building from Moray Council, and the organisation already offers 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.
When Moray Council took the decision to close Forres Town Hall completely in 2017, the Forres Area Community Trust ( FACT) stepped in to lease and manage the building on behalf of the community. FACT have worked successfully with user groups to increase occupancy and use of the building which doubled in the first 12 months under their management.
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.
During lockdown the Town Hall has served as a hub for the Forres & Kinloss community food project which has allocated over 1,000 meals since May of this year, and it has also been open for donations to be made to the Scrubs project, food donations, masks, and blankets for the Cameron Project. 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. While the building has been maintained and is in reasonable condition, the accommodation is well short of current standards in terms of accessibility, building services and fabric insulation.
Following extensive community consultation, FACT has developed a clear vision for Forres Town Hall, which will see its functionality transformed. The stated aims of that vision are:
- To transform the Large 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
- Restore the Lesser Hall to become a beautiful event space once more that celebrates the heritage of the building
- Make the entrance foyer more welcoming and practical
Applications for planning permission and listed building consent have been submitted for consideration for a transformative project to refurbish, insulate and improve the building. A funding bid to the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF) is also currently submitted for consideration at stage 1.
The design proposal which has been 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:
- 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
- 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
- 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
- To insert a new second floor mezzanine in the first-floor room on the front elevation
- To provide new platform lifts at the front and rear of the building, to provide almost universal access throughout
- To introduce natural light to the Main Hall via new rooflights
- To provide modern fit for purpose sanitary facilities including accessible toilets and an accessible shower
- To greatly improve the functionality and size of the existing kitchen
- To establish dedicated plant space at the rear of the Main Hall to allow the future installation of efficient energy systems
- To restore the Lesser Hall to its former grandeur through careful restoration and redecoration
- To improve external accessibility to the building by adjusting external levels and improving surfacing in the pend
- To carry out essential and desirable fabric repairs
Debbie Herron, Development Manager Forres Area Community Trust, said: “As we conclude the final stages of securing the community ownership of Forres Town Hall, we are very excited to have submitted applications for planning permission and listed building consent as our next step towards 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 which has enabled us to purchase Forres Town Hall has also enabled us to develop our plans for its future as outlined in the recent planning permission and listed building consent applications. When the purchase is concluded this will mark 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 will also mark 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, in this case being able to realise the aims of the future vision for Forres Town Hall.’’
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