Meeting hopes to find a way forward for historic Elgin landmark

Hopes that a future use can be found for a historic Moray landmark may rest on a meeting next week being facilitated by Moray Council.

Any groups or individuals with an interest in the future of Grand Lodge in Elgin’s Cooper Park are being invited to the Assembly Hall at Elgin Academy on Monday, May 12 at 7pm.

The meeting is being organised by Moray Council’s chief executive, Roddy Burns, who undertook to do so after Councillors called a halt to a feasibility study into the future use of the building.

Grant Lodge had previously served as the main library in Elgin before being used as a storage facility. However, the building was badly damaged by fire in 2003 and fell into disuse. It looked set to become a home for registrar’s as well as a tourist information centre – but Councillors abandoned plans in the face of rising financial difficulties.

Head of development at Moray Council, Jim Grant, said: “The purpose of the meeting is to identify possible uses so that the appropriate group can take it forward.

“The issues surrounding the building are significant in terms of cost and refurbishing the building. We don’t want to constrain people’s ideas but it has to be something which is sustainable and can stand on its own two feet.”

During January’s debate in the council chamber it had emerged that £140,000 paid by insurers after the 2003 fire had never been spent by the local authority, instead being kept in the Council’s general reserves – a situation described by local councillor Graham Leadbitter as “unacceptable”.

At the time Councillor Leadbitter said: “I think it is important to be pragmatic on this. Many people recognise that it is not a simple thing to stick to the original trust purposes, as the services Grant Lodge hosted are now bigger than the building could cope with.

“But that does not mean the Council should ignore the problem, rather it means we need to find a creative solution.”

Speaking for ‘Friends of Grant Lodge’, a group formed several years ago to call attention to the plight of the 18th century lodge, Sarah Nicholson said: “It does nobody any good lying empty – the sooner we find a use for it the better.

“There are a lot of beautiful buildings in Elgin but Grant Lodge is the jewel in the crown.”

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