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Erskine Veterans Charity has informed The Leanchoil Trust it will open a wellbeing centre at the Victoria Hotel in Forres but not on St Leonard’s Road


By Garry McCartney

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A BRITISH charity has withdrawn its support from a local historic site’s £5million repurposing project.

Erskine Veterans Charity - a major partner in The Leanchoil Trust’s aim to create a state-of-the-art space for community use at the former hospital on St Leonard’s Road - has confirmed it will concentrate on plans to make the Victoria Hotel on Tytler Street its north of Scotland veteran’s activity centre.

Chief executive at Erskine, Wing Commander Ian Cumming MBE, confirmed discussions between the charity and Leanchoil Trust have now concluded.

He said: “Unfortunately, the original opening date for the Leanchoil community hub has moved from summer 2024 and is now extended into 2027. This is at odds with our plans to deliver a support service for veterans in Moray this year.

“There is a need to commence as quickly as possible so it was necessary to step away from the hospital refurbishment project to focus on development of our new activity centre at the Victoria Hotel. It has the potential to be life-changing for veterans in the local community and across the country.

“Situated near the town centre, with easy access to transport and local amenities, the Vic’ is in the perfect location for veterans and their families. Providing a dedicated space to come together and engage in various activities will greatly benefit the surrounding community, and honour the sacrifices made by those who have served our country.

“We wish The Leanchoil Trust every success and look forward to their future contribution to the wellbeing of everyone in the Forres community."

The charity has withdrawn from the Leanchoil project but is pushing ahead with its conversion of the Victoria Hotel into a wellbeing centre instead.
The charity has withdrawn from the Leanchoil project but is pushing ahead with its conversion of the Victoria Hotel into a wellbeing centre instead.

Erskine announced its plans to buy the Victoria Hotel in January to transform the building and deliver health supporting and life affirming services before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Leanchoil Trust will continue working with its remaining major partners Hanover Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service to secure the former hospital’s future and prepare the delivery phase application. The trust has concluded conditional missives with NHS Grampian for the sale of the St Leonard’s Road site and transfer of ownership is expected in early 2025.

Front from left: Dr Jana Hutt, Professor Marianne Nicolson (chairwoman) and Lord-Lieutenant of Moray Seymour Monro (president) with Leanchoil Trust trustees.Picture: Beth Taylor
Front from left: Dr Jana Hutt, Professor Marianne Nicolson (chairwoman) and Lord-Lieutenant of Moray Seymour Monro (president) with Leanchoil Trust trustees.Picture: Beth Taylor

Leanchoil Trust chairwoman, Professor Marianne Nicolson, admitted she was surprised by Erskine’s decision. She explained that the charity had contacted the trust to request a meeting on Monday, June 3, where they announced their withdrawal from the partnership on the recommendation of their board.

Reasons given included concern over the complexity of the plans for Leanchoil and a ‘divergence of purpose’.

Prof Nicolson said: “Following Erskine’s earlier reassurances, we regret that our local veterans will not benefit from the wonderful grounds and services at Leanchoil.

“We expressed surprise given our close communication throughout the process and the repeated reassurances given by Erskine until this sudden decision. It was pointed out that we had tried to accommodate Erskine’s requests but many of them were not possible given the restrictions in the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) arrangements with NHS Grampian.”

Prof Nicolson reiterated that The Leanchoil Centre will be for all, including members of our veteran and armed forces community.

She said: “The part of the listed building that was to be allocated to Erskine and fitted out according to their desires will now be encompassed into the main plan. This means that the cost of the build should be reduced, and integration of all parties at the refurbished Leanchoil can be guaranteed.

“Although surprised by Erskine’s decision following their initial keenness for space at Leanchoil, we are totally committed and confident that the project remains on track for delivery in 2027.

Leanchoil was opened to the Forres community in 1892.
Leanchoil was opened to the Forres community in 1892.

“We encourage anyone interested to join those who are already members of Leanchoil - it’s free - so that they can be kept up to speed with developments through the bimonthly newsletter. Ideas for activities are also invited from all of those interested in the project.”

To join, and for more information, visit https://www.leanchoiltrust.org/


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