Councillors have made it clear that the future of Elgin’s Grant Lodge is in the hands of the public and that the local authority will not become “actively involved” it its future development.
The local authority discussed the current situation facing the historic former library building in Cooper Park, which was gifted to the people of Elgin in 1903 by Sir George Cooper.
Members of the policy and resources committee heard a report on a working group consisting of supporters of the building but the local authority’s leader, Councillor Allan Wright, insisted that the future of the building was now in their hands.
He said: “If the group suggests a use for the building that is both viable and sustainable we can support any applications it makes for grants from various bodies.
“The council will not be actively involved.”
However, a member of the working group and leading campaigner for a secure future for the building, Sarah Nicolson, hit back saying that Sir George Cooper would be “turning in his grave” if he could see the state of the building today.
The building was gutted by a fire in 2003 and has lain derelict ever since, prompting campaigners to accuse Moray Council of failing in its duty to maintain the Lodge which was first built in 1769.
Ms Nicolson said: “It has been allowed to remain derelict for far too long – however, I think there is now a sea-change in local attitudes.
“I also think there is a growing realisation nationally that the legal terms of historic bequests like this need to be interpreted more widely. George Cooper wanted Grant Lodge to benefit the community – which is precisely what it is not doing right now.”
An exhibition is currently being held in the Elgin Library where members of the public are being urged to put forward their ideas for the future of the building.
Ms Nicolson added: “We want people to step forward and make suggestions – it is possible that the most popular will not be economically viable, or it is possible that we will not get permission from the Court of Session for other suggestions.
“However, we still want to here people’s ideas.”