Published: 11/01/2014 15:00 - Updated: 10/01/2014 11:59

Grant Lodge decision plea

COUNCILLORS are being urged to make a final decision on the future of Grant Lodge – even if that means the building is knocked to the ground.

Alastair Kennedy, chairman of Elgin Community Council, would rather see the former library and heritage centre demolished than for it to fall into further disrepair.

He thinks the building in Cooper Park is a “blot on the landscape” and any opportunity to turn its fortunes around has been missed.

A report to go before Moray Council’s economic development and infrastructure committee on Tuesday is recommending the termination of a feasibility study contract, which has already cost over £62,000.

The study was to look at ways of funding the use of Grant Lodge other than with local authority resources.

Jim Grant, head of development services and author of the report, is also recommending that “no further action” be taken in relation to the building by the local authority at the moment, given current budgetary constraints.

Grant Lodge was severely damaged by fire more than 10 years ago. No work has been carried out on the building since then other than to board it up and make it safe.

Mr Kennedy said: “How long do you leave it sitting like that? It’s a blot on the landscape at the moment.

“Are we going to be in this position in 20 years time?

“I understand that it has historical significance and that people want to keep the building, but a decision will have to be made on its future one way or another.

“I think it’s time to bite the bullet.

“Personally I would rather see it demolished than for it to continue to deteriorate.

“We have to de realistic, it can’t be there for ever.”

Mr Kennedy added that he would like to see the people of Elgin balloted on the future of the building, and discussions held with Sir George Copper’s descendants.

Sir George gifted Grant Lodge to the inhabitants of the Moray capital in the early 1900s.

As trustee, the council has a responsibility to maintain it and keep the premises in a good state of repair.

The local authority is currently in breach of its duties, and has been for some time.

Any plan to alter the deed so that the building could be leased or sold would require a petition to the Court of Session.

That would cost up to £20,000.

In 2011 a group was established by those who wanted to secure the future of the building.

On the Facebook page Restore Grant Lodge, the group has said: “We must fight tooth and nail against the dismal report submitted to ED&I on Tuesday.

“Moray Council is in breach of (its) statutory regulations for archives.

“(It is) Also in breach of their responsibilities as custodians on behalf of inhabitants of Elgin.

“Grant Lodge is not for the council to ignore. They are trustees.

“(It’s) Time to tell them you want a better deal.”

As the council has breached the terms of the trust, the lands could revert to original benefactors and heirs of Sir George.

However, given the passage of time since the building was last in public use, officers feel the likelihood of that happening would be low.

The 18th century lodge currently has an annual maintenance budget of £400.

A recent condition survey found that a minimum of between £150,000 and £200,000 would need to be invested to keep the building wind and water tight, although this work does not need to be done immediately.

The matter will be discussed at the meeting in Moray Council chambers on Tuesday from 9.30am.

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