Published: 14/12/2010 00:00 - Updated: 21/11/2011 16:02

The fight begins to save centre

Professor Ashley Mowat stands in front of the Cullen Community and Residential Centre.
Professor Ashley Mowat stands in front of the Cullen Community and Residential Centre.

However, Cullen and Deskford Community Council has presented Moray Council with an extremly detailed case for its retention.

The community council said it had submitted its official response "following extensive local consultation, including two public meetings attended by around 180 residents/taxpayers, and dialogue with more than 25 groups".

Professor Ashley Mowat, chairman of the community council, said: "We were extremely heartened by the response from the community.

"We recognise the need for the Moray Council to make significant budget cuts, and so we have focused on providing constructive comments on those items which impact directly on our own community or which impact on Moray as an economic and demographic entity.

"Our response reflects a strong, community-wide wish to retain the facilities in the community/residential centre, which includes the library and Cullen Play Centre, as well as the town hall.

"We have put forward positive ideas on how they may be affordable and sustainable, with community and Moray Council collaboration."

More than 15,000 people used the centre in the past year, said the community council, adding that it was the only such centre in Grampian, attracting UK and overseas groups for outdoor activities.

Its closure would have "disastrous economic implications on Cullen businesses" and would spell the end for at least 15 groups due to the lack of suitable alternative premises.

A total of 28 groups who use the centre say they would be prepared to pay increased charges to keep it open, said Prof Mowat.

He said the importance of tourism was critical to the future of coastal villages - "keeping them economically afloat" - and its infrastructure had to be "safeguarded at all costs".

Prof Mowat described Cullen as having a strategic location as the gateway to Moray. It was "a jewel in the Moray tourism offering, with local businesses hugely dependent upon visitors for their livelihood".

He said the closure of the Cullen Town Hall - which was "ideal for larger gatherings, ceilidhs, weddings, parties and theatrical productions" - would represent the loss of an historical A-listed building gifted to the people of Cullen by the Seafield Estate.

He added: "The memorial hall within the town hall was created in recognition of the sacrifices of the Cullen and District contingent of the armed services. Its closure would also mean the loss of the Cullen Tourist Information Office, which saw a record number of visitors this summer. It was also a venue for the very popular Heritage Group display, which saw 1,700 visitors during the summer.

"The loss of the two buildings would have a devastating impact on the social wellbeing and cohesion of our community - from the elderly to the very young.

"There would be job losses. The charity work undertaken by more than 20 groups would be lost.

"Questionnaires returned by 77% of businesses in the town indicated either significant or major detrimental impact. There would be a significant negative impact on attracting visitors and tourists to what is a highly popular, unique and magical destination. And how could we attract new residents?

"Among other suggestions, we have suggested increased charges to market levels, improved marketing and a positive conclusion to the lease negotiations on the Town Hall. With the blessing of our community, we have registered a formal community interest in both buildings, and we await Moray Council's response."

Moray Council is expected to make its final budget decisions in February.

g.crawford@banffshire-journal.co.uk

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