Moray councillors will be asked to scrap a study into proposals over the future of Elgin’s historic Grant Lodge – and write off over £60,000 already spent on the project.
The plans look set to spark anger amongst residents who have been fighting to protect the building that traces its origins back over 270 years.
Standing in Cooper Park, Grant Lodge was gifted to Elgin by Sir George Cooper in 1903 and went on to be used as the main library in Elgin. However, a fire in 2003 gutted the building and it has lain derelict since.
In 2011 a campaign group – ‘Friends of Grant Lodge’ – was formed to assist in having the building repaired and brought back into public use. First Minister Alex Salmond was lobbied by campaigners to help find a way of restoring Grant Lodge to its former glories.
Hopes were raised in February 2012 when Moray Council agreed to provide £1.3million over three years in the form of ‘match funding’ with plans to turn the building into a heritage centre, registrar’s office and visitor information point.
However, in March this year plans were put on hold with councillors labelling the building an “expensive distraction”.
Now a meeting on Tuesday of the Council’s economic development committee will be asked by officials to scrap the project altogether – with the council taking no further action to protect the building.
Members of the Friends of Grant Lodge group are to meet some elected members this evening to make their case for at least preserving the building, with group leader Sarah Nicolson saying: “We recognise there is a shortage of funding but all the same Moray Council say that they have to spend to regenerate the area to attract people to it.
“The money they have spent on this project would have been better employed in maintaining the building itself – the whole thing has turned into an absolute farce.”
In his report to Councillors on Tuesday, environmental director Jim Grant warns that doing nothing at all would be a breach of the trust under which Grant Lodge was gifted to Elgin.
If that proves to be the case then ownership of the building can revert to heirs of the original owner – although Mr Grant insists that was a ‘low risk’.
Leader of Moray Council, Councillor Allan Wright, insisted that doing nothing was the preferred option: “If anyone can come up with a solution that does not cost the council money then I would be happy to hear it.
“Currently though all the suggestions, such as turning it into a store for historic records or a registrar’s office, will cost money.”