GROWING concern about the future of a much-loved Ross-shire venue has been allayed with a pledge over its planned sale.
Concern had been growing in Strathpeffer over the prospect of the Pavilion being sold to an unknown private bidder, casting its future in doubt.
Highland Council, High Life Highland, Scottish Historic Buildings Trust and the Strathpeffer Pavilion Association this afternoon issued a joint statement saying that a fresh deal has been struck paving the way for the local community "to work towards taking ownership".
The agreement will see the council continue as the main leaseholder of the building for a three-year period, with High Life Highland (HLH) operating the facility, in the first instance simply honouring existing bookings for weddings and events, but with the aspiration of developing a wider programme as finances allow.
HLH is the charity set up by the council in 2011 to run its cultural and leisure services.
Una Richards, director of the SHBT said: "SHBT has fulfilled its obligations to the Strathpeffer community by taking the Pavilion from dereliction to a sustainable use as a multi-purpose arts and community venue, reinstating the Pavilion’s historic role in the community.
"It is now a secure, well maintained and viable building and SHBT is very pleased to have found a way forward with the council and HLH which will give the local community time to come together to raise funds towards owning what is a fantastic local asset and continue its dynamic contribution to the community of Strathpeffer into the future.
"SHBT’s business model is to generate income from its properties that it leases which goes towards the ongoing work of the organisation and enables it to invest time in new projects. For the last 11 years, all rent received on the Pavilion has been reinvested in ongoing repairs and maintenance with no income being received by SHBT. SHBT must now ensure that any decisions for the future are sustainable, both for the building, as well as for the trust."
Highland Council’s chief executive Steve Barron said: "The council has been a strong supporter of the Pavilion and since its renovation, giving time, advice and annual financial help to the Pavilion Association to assist with running costs and their programme of events.
"At a recent public meeting, I said that the council would do what it could to support the development of a community bid to purchase the building. If the community gets behind those prepared to take this forward, I believe this agreement gives time for that to happen."
Speaking for HLH, Ian Murray, chief executive said: "Our aim is to provide reassurance to the many weddings and other bookings that their events are secure and will go ahead as planned and thereafter to see what we can do, within the finances available, to develop the Pavilion as a vibrant community hub."
He added: "The current operators of the facility, the Strathpeffer Pavilion Association and their supporters through the Friends of the Pavilion, have done a great job for over ten years in offering a wide ranging programme and in improving, not just maintaining, the Pavilion in first class condition."
The chairman of the Pavilion Association Trish Black said: "Although SPA Directors did not feel able to lead a bid to buy the Pavilion and felt that the time had come to step away, we are very pleased that the SHBT, the council and HLH have been prepared to reach this agreement, to give enough time for a wider group of local people to come forward to secure the Pavilion’s future.
"As individuals we will all continue to be huge supporters of the Pavilion as a venue for events and culture and I would like to pay tribute to the staff, the voluntary Directors past and present, as well as to the Friends of the Pavilion who have been a fantastic support, giving freely of their time and tireless in their fundraising efforts."