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Volunteers hall in it together in Invergordon as public invited to have say on future of town hall


By Hector MacKenzie

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People are being asked how they want to see Invergordon Town Hall used.
People are being asked how they want to see Invergordon Town Hall used.

AN Easter Ross town is being urged to rally round plans to breathe fresh life into a neglected landmark that could now be reinvented as a community hub.

Locals are to asked how they would like to see Invergordon Town Hall re-purposed after the development trust keen to secure its future secured a £21,388 grant to draw up a business case.

And in a remarkable show of support for Invergordon Development Trust (IDT), the first community event being staged at the venue since the grant was awarded is set to be a sell-out success tomorrow, with all tickets for a comedy night swiftly snapped out.

The town hall will again be packed on Saturday night.
The town hall will again be packed on Saturday night.

While many of the town's older generation have treasured memories of the High Street building's past as a cinema and theatre, maintenance of the common good asset transferred by Highland Council has languished.

The Scottish Land Fund development grant will allow IDC to appoint a design team headed by Catriona Hill of CH Architecture and start-up supporter Impact Hub for business case development.

People are being asked how they want to see Invergordon Town Hall used.
People are being asked how they want to see Invergordon Town Hall used.

The cruise liner boom will see the town welcome 180,000 visitors this year, with the arrival of mega-vessels regularly doubling the town's population. Many visitors, though, head out on whistlestop bus tours around the Highlands – and hopes are high more spend could be retained locally.

Over the coming months, a series of community consultation events will allow locals to have their say.

Marie Clarke, chairman of the IDC, welcomed support from the SLF. She said: "Now the support of the community during the consultation period will help to shape the future services and activities which could be offered when the town hall has been refurbished. This is the time for people to have their say and express their views."

She said local response to community markets, a summer picnic and this weekend's comedy night event organised by the IDC had shown the strength of local support.

Invergordon will see 180,000 cruise passengers pass through this year.
Invergordon will see 180,000 cruise passengers pass through this year.

Highlighting a resurgence in community spirit, she said: "We really need to deliver something that is versatile and which the town wants and needs. We have been overwhelmed by the support of the public and people coming forward at community events to volunteer their help."

Referring to the town's central role in a cruise line bonanza reckoned to be worth up to £18m a year to the Highland economy, she said: "We'll speak to businesses, who have been very supportive. We've got a captive audience with up to 200,000 visitors a year. There are no hard and fast ideas but we do know that we want to invest this money for the next generation.

"There are no guarantees and we don't want to raise any false hopes but there is a lot of momentum in Invergordon. It feels like a long time since there was this sense of community. If every single person does a tiny bit, it doesn't feel like such a mountain to climb. Our reputation has plummeted a bit in recent years. We really just want to get this right."

She said the town hall was a community asset not being used to its full potential. She said: "Someone buying tickets for the comedy night said they hadn't been in there since they were 12 and can't wait."

Supporters took to Facebook to welcome the development. Amy Wright wrote: "Congratulations to all. This building is one of the most beautiful in and around Ross shire. I am so proud of all your efforts in saving it and looking forward to seeing how it's refurbished."

Trish Mackenzie wrote: "Brilliant news and great respect for all your efforts. These beautiful buildings should be treasured – a fact that seems to be taking hold more and more thankfully."


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