A PROJECT AIMED at redeveloping part of a farm estate into a world-class university research and teaching centre has been awarded £750,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
The Blairs Steading project on the Altyre Estate near Forres will see the creation of the new centre at a cost of around £2.5million. Historic Scotland has already pledged £500,000 towards the project while the remainder will be funded by the Estate.
Three large buildings will be transformed into a 10,000 square foot horseshoe-shaped campus, providing studio and exhibition space as well as areas for lecturing and a ‘flexible experience’ laboratory.
David Oxley, HIE area manager in Moray, said: “The Blairs Steadings project will bring disused buildings back into productive use. It forms part of a much larger initiative that will bring social and economic benefits, not just in Moray but across the Highlands and Islands.”
The investment has been welcomed by Moray’s MSP, Richard Lochhead: “It’s fantastic news that the Blairs Steading project will see a local disused building transformed into a world class research and teaching facility, which will undoubtedly bring many benefits to the local community and wider Moray.
“Moray has a growing reputation for first class education and research facilities and this project will certainly be a welcome addition, which I’m looking forward to seeing develop and progress.”
Local SNP councillor for Forres, Aaron McLean, said the investment was “great news” for the local economy, adding: “It is good to see the growing and very positive relationship with Glasgow School of Art following their work in the Enterprise Park and their lease of a High Street premises in Forres.
“This long-term commitment is important in diversifying what is on offer in the Forres area and is good news for the wider community.”
Sir Alastair Gordon Cumming, owner of the Altyre Estate, said: “After a long period of detailed planning we are very pleased that work has now commenced on this transformative project.
“Altyre is proud to be working with HIE on a set of passionately shared objectives to bring educational, research, enterprise and economic benefits to Moray, the Highlands and Islands and to Scotland at large.
“I would like to record my thanks to the staff and Board of HIE for their efforts in enabling this vision to come to fruition and to Historic Scotland for its valued support.”
Negotiations are under way to secure the steading as a regional base for Glasgow School of Art (GSA). HIE and GSA have worked together since 2010 on GSA’s Institute of Design Innovation (InDI) at the Enterprise Park Forres.
In January this year the two organisations announced plans to develop a unique strategic partnership delivering research, teaching and economic benefits across the region with anticipated joint investment of up to £10 million over four years.