Councillors urged to back Fochabers Institute to tune of £260k

Fochabers Institute
Moray councillors are to be urged to lend their support to a transfer of the Fochabers Institute into community ownership along with maintenance funding of £150,000.

A meeting of the policy and resources committee on Tuesday will be invited to consider the future of the building which has been described as being “in an extremely poor state of repair”.

The building has been leased from Moray Council by a local management committee which has been responsible for its operation and maintenance. However, they have not had the resources to undertake necessary renovations to the popular building, which has been the subject of consultations over its future for several years.

Now an application by the Fochabers Village Association Limited (FVAL) to take ownership of the building under Community Asset Transfer (CAT) rules will be considered by the committee.

Councillors will be asked to approve “in principle” a CAT at a price to be agreed on receipt of a satisfactory business case. Should they accept the recommendation in a report on Tuesday, councillors will also be asked to consider a request from the FVAL that a grant of £150,000 is awarded to cover “essential maintenance”.

If councillors refuse the application they will be asked to declare the building as surplus to Council requirements “unless there are activities operated from the Institute building which contribute in a material way to the priorities set out in Moray 2023 and could not be continued from other facilities in the local area”.

Authors of the report, Educational Resources Manager Nick Goodchild and Andrew Gray, the Asset Management Coordinator, remind councillors that in September 2012 the committee agreed to engagement with community representatives over a possible transfer of ownership of the building.

The report adds: “Following a public meeting, FVAL, a company limited by guarantee, was formed to pursue a CAT of the Institute for the purpose of securing its future as a community asset, building on its current usage and developing it into a thriving community asset.

“In order to succeed, FVAL will need to secure significant funding to undertake the necessary improvements to the building. FVAL was granted charitable status on 9 January 2014.”

A draft business case in support of a CAT was produced in November last year, the report adding: “The draft business case established that the Institute requires major refurbishment at an estimated cost of £710,000.

“FVAL is seeking to cover these costs through a mix of fundraising (£90,000), grant applications (£470,000), and a funding request to the Council for £150,000 to cover outstanding essential maintenance.

“The funding request is in addition to a 100% discount on the transfer price (estimated at £110,000), bringing the total value of the requested Council funding package to £260,000.”

Councillors will be reminded that “Fochabers Institute is not a current priority for the Council and there is no budgetary provision to cover the £150,000 requested for essential repairs.

“Without the prospect of all the required funding being in place, officers would be unable to recommend a transfer.”

Should the transfer plans go ahead the new owners hope to improve facilities at the Institute for current users and also attract new users to the facility, the report adding: “The Institute Management Committee has been successful in attracting some new users to the facility since the date of the original consultation.”